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                                                  Kathleen Higgins 
mail to: khiggins@anselm.edu
 The Ability to Recognize Facial Expressions Increases Social Competence in Preschool Children
Background Research Question Method
Results Implications Relevant Links


 

Background

Boyatiz and Chazan (1993) found a gender difference for preschool children's ability to recognize facial expressions, with females being superior to their male peers.  MacDonald and Kirkpatrick (1996) found that a better ability to recognize facial expressions is correlated with high popularity, academic achievement and external locus of control in children.

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Research Question
 

This experiment examined (1) a gender difference in the ability to recognize facial expressions, (2) a gender difference  in social competence levels, and (3) a correlation between the ability to recognize facial expressions and social competence.
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Method

Eleven children (4 female, 7 male) between the ages of 3.0 and 4.7 were administered two tests.  First, the children were given Harter and Pike's Pictorial Scale of Perceived Competence and Social  Acceptance for Young Children (1983).  Several days later the children were given a modified version of Ekman and Friesen's Pictures of Facial Affect (1976).

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Results

The findings of this study demonstrated no significant gender difference for facial expression recognition or social competence.  A positive correlation was found between the ability to recognize facial expressions and social competence.  Thus, the better a child was at interpreting a facial expression the higher the child's social competence will be.

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Implications
 

The findings of this study could be applied to research with handicapped children.  For example, a deaf child may have a high ability to recognize facial expressions because they can not hear the words that accompany the expression and therefore, can only rely on facial expressions. 
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