What’s in a Face?: Facial Cues Facilitate Emotion-Word Learning in 14-month-old Infants

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Emotion learning, the process through which humans understand their own and others’ affective states, allows infants to communicate and bond with others. Infants use facial expressions as external indicators of these internal states during the learning process. The present study seeks to investigate previous findings, which found that 14-month-olds could not form word-emotional expression links when presented with video stimuli of human faces making happy and sad expressions, yet these infants could form these associations when presented with video of cartoon faces. Did these infants need different cues to make label-expression combinations in the human face condition? In the current study, we tested the hypothesis that these infants need facial stimuli to say or emit the word in order for them to recruit skills for word-learning, versus a voiceover label in previous studies. Fourteen-month-old infants (N = 32) were habituated to label-expression combinations and then tested with one combination from the habituation phase and one with changed relations or a “switch” event. Average looking times (in seconds) for the two conditions, Emitted label stimuli and voiceover label stimuli (Non-emitted), were compared. The results show that infants looked significantly longer at the novel “switch” combination relative to the "same" trial (p = .02) in the Emitted condition, while the difference for the Non-emitted condition was not significant (p =.60). Infants in the Emitted condition successfully recognized novel expression-label associations, and thus labels emitted from a face facilitated word learning. For emotion-word learning, these unique naturalistic cues may be necessary.






Ferrans, Morgan (2019). What’s in a Face?: Facial Cues Facilitate Emotion-Word Learning in 14-month-old Infants. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/18360.

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