Emotion & Prosody: Examining Infants' Ability to Match Subtle Prosodic Variation with Corresponding Facial Expressions
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Emotions are conveyed largely through facial expressions and prosody. One important part of language development is learning to express and comprehend these features of emotion. This study examined infants' ability to pair facial expressions with corresponding prosody for "happiness" and "fear". These emotions differ in valence but contain similar prosody. Sixteen-month-olds viewed a single video screen displaying either a happy or fearful facial expression. Simultaneously they heard a series of phrases containing either fearful or happy intonation. During some trials the voice and face expressed the same emotion; during other trials there was a mismatch. Infants' looking time was measured during each condition; they were expected to look longer when both the face and voice matched in emotion. Sixteen-month-olds did not look significantly longer during any particular condition. This suggests that infants may have a limited understanding of the manifestations of "fear" and "happiness" at 16 months of age.