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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Anxiety in young children : differences in ability to recognize facial expressio Bridger, Alisa Christine


The current study investigated the relationship between shyness in five-year-olds and their ability to recognize facial affect from photographs. Shyness is thought to be a vulnerability for the development of anxiety. The onset of anxiety can occur in early childhood, and often the symptoms can be problematic for very young children upon entry to the school system. A particular line of research experimentation has asked anxious children and adults to identify the emotions of people shown in photographs (Battagila, et al., 2005; Pine et al., 2005; Simonian, Beidel, Turner, Berkes, & Long, 2001). While anxious individuals are less able generally to recognize emotions in others (Simonian et al.), they also have a tendency to over ascribe negative emotions in others. Some research (Pine et al.) also shows significant results indicating slower recognition times for anxious youth Thirty-six slides from the Pictures of Facial Affect (PFA) developed by Ekman and Friesen (1976) were presented to 128 kindergarten children. Four trends emerged between the accuracy of "shy" children and "not-shy" children, as identified by their parent, when identifying sad, mad, scared, and all emotions overall, with the not-shy children being more accurate in their responses. A significant difference also emerged with the reaction time of "shy" children being significantly greater than the reaction time of "not shy" children. This study found happiness was clearly the most accurately recognized expression by all students (N=l 18), followed by accurate identification of anger. Finally, all children were significantly less accurate in recognizing sadness, surprise, fear and disgust.

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