Facial emotion and identity processing development in 5to 15-year-old children

Patrick J. Johnston, Jordy Kaufman, Julie Bajic, Alicia Sercombe, Patricia T. Michie, Frini Karayanidis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Most developmental studies of emotional face processing to date have focused on infants and very young children. Additionally, studies that examine emotional face processing in older children do not distinguish development in emotion and identity face processing from more generic age-related cognitive improvement. In this study, we developed a paradigm that measures processing of facial expression in comparison to facial identity and complex visual stimuli. The three matching tasks were developed (i.e., facial emotion matching, facial identity matching, and butterfly wing matching) to include stimuli of similar level of discriminability and to be equated for task difficulty in earlier samples of young adults. Ninety-two children aged 5-15 years and a new group of 24 young adults completed these three matching tasks. Young children were highly adept at the butterfly wing task relative to their performance on both face-related tasks. More importantly, in older children, development of facial emotion discrimination ability lagged behind that of facial identity discrimination.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberArticle 26
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberFEB
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Development
  • Face processing
  • Facial emotion
  • Facial identity


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