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Dev Psychol. 1998 Sep;34(5):1017-25.

Infants' use of attentional cues to identify the referent of another person's emotional expression.

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Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, USA.


This study explored 14- and 18-month-old infants' ability to identify the target of an emotional display. In the visual task, infants were presented with 2 boxes. Each box contained an object that could be identified by opening the box lid and looking inside. In the tactile task, the objects had to be pulled out of the boxes before they could be seen. An experimenter expressed happiness as she looked or put her hand inside one box, and disgust as she repeated this action with the other box. Infants were then allowed to explore the boxes. Infants touched both boxes but preferred to search for the happy object. Thus, regardless of age or task, infants identified the target of each emotional display as something inside a box and not the box itself. Infants appeared to use the experimenter's attentional cues (gaze and action) to interpret her emotional signals and behaved as if they understood that she was communicating about the objects.

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