Culture shapes preschoolers’ emotion recognition but not emotion comprehension: a cross-cultural study in Germany and Singapore

Corina Möller*, Rebecca Bull, Gisa Aschersleben

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
69 Downloads (Pure)


Contemporary approaches suggest that emotions are shaped by culture. Children growing up in different cultures experience culture-specific emotion socialization practices. As a result, children growing up in Western societies (e.g., US or UK) rely on explicit, semantic information, whereas children from East Asian cultures (e.g., China or Japan) are more sensitive towards implicit, contextual cues when confronted with others’ emotions. The aim of the present study was to investigate two aspects of preschoolers’ emotion understanding (emotion recognition and emotion comprehension) in a cross-cultural setting. To this end, Singaporean and German preschoolers were tested with an emotion recognition task employing European-American and East Asian child’s faces and the Test of Emotion Comprehension (TEC; Pons et al., 2004). In total, 129 German and Singaporean preschoolers (mean age 5.34 years) participated. Results indicate that preschoolers were able to recognize emotions of child’s faces above chance level. In line with previous findings, Singaporean preschoolers were more accurate in recognizing emotions from facial stimuli compared to German preschoolers. Accordingly, Singaporean preschoolers outperformed German preschoolers in the Recognition component of the TEC. The overall performance in TEC did not differ between the two samples. Findings of this study provide further evidence that emotion understanding is culturally shaped in accordance with culture-specific emotion socialization practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9–25
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Cultural Cognitive Science
Issue number1
Early online date11 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - May 2022

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2022. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • emotion development
  • culture
  • TEC
  • facial expression
  • emotion comprehension


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