How to turn that frown upside down: Children make use of a listener’s facial cues to detect and (attempt to) repair miscommunication
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Communication involves the integration of verbal and nonverbal cues. This study assessed preschool-age children’s ability to use their conversational partner’s facial expression to determine whether the partner required additional information or not. Children (aged 4;0–5;11 [years;months]; N = 101) played a game with a virtual child partner where they attempted to tell the virtual child in which box a prize was hidden. Children needed to provide several features of pictures on each box to uniquely identify the correct box. After providing their instructions, children viewed a video of the virtual child’s emotional reaction (prize found = happy, not found = sad). We assessed children’s recognition that miscommunication had occurred, their decision of whether or not to repair their message, and the content of their repairs. We found that children were able to determine whether or not the listener found the prize, and gauge their own skill at providing instructions, based on the listener’s facial expression. Furthermore, children were more likely to attempt to repair messages when the listener appeared to be sad, although their actual success in repairing the message was minimal. With respect to individual differences, children with higher executive functioning and higher emotion knowledge skills were more accurate in their perceptions of communicative success. Children with higher emotion knowledge skills were more likely to attempt to repair their messages when the listener appeared to be sad. Overall, this study demonstrates that children are able to make inferences about communication using a listener’s facial expression and that emotion recognition and executive functioning support this ability.
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Sarah A. Bacso, Elizabeth S. Nilsen, Janel Silva (2021). How to turn that frown upside down: Children make use of a listener’s facial cues to detect and (attempt to) repair miscommunication. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/17442
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