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J Learn Disabil. 1998 May-Jun;31(3):286-92, 312.

Interpretation of facial expressions of affect in children with learning disabilities with verbal or nonverbal deficits.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel.


The ability to identify facial expressions of happiness, sadness, anger, surprise,fear, and disgust was studied in 48 nondisabled children and 76 children with learning disabilities aged 9 through 12. On the basis of their performance on the Rey Auditory-Verbal Learning Test and the Benton Visual Retention Test, the LD group was divided into three subgroups: those with verbal deficits (VD), nonverbal deficits (NVD), and both verbal and nonverbal (BD) deficits. The measure of ability to interpret facial expressions of affect was a shortened version of Ekman and Friesen's Pictures of Facial Affect. Overall, the nondisabled group had better interpretive ability than the three learning disabled groups and the VD group had better ability than the NVD and BD groups. Although the identification level of the nondisabled group differed from that of the VD group only for surprise, it was superior to that of the NVD and BD groups for four of the six emotions. Happiness was the easiest to identify, and the remaining emotions in ascending order of difficulty were anger, surprise, sadness, fear, and disgust. Older subjects did better than younger ones only for fear and disgust, and boys and girls did not differ in interpretive ability. These findings are discussed in terms of the need to take note of the heterogeneity of the learning disabled population and the particular vulnerability to social imperception of children with nonverbal deficits.

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