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Australian children's understanding of display rules

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Cultural display rules govern the manifestation of emotional expressions. In compliance with display rules, the facial expressions displayed (i.e. apparent emotion) may be incongruent with the emotion experienced (i.e. real emotion). This study investigates Australian Caucasian children's understanding of display rules. A sample of 80 four year olds and 96 six year olds was presented with hypothetical stories in which display rules would govern whether or not apparent emotion should match real emotion. Children were then asked to identify the real and apparent emotion corresponding to the story from an array of facial expressions of emotion. Results indicated that children gave non-regulated responses to story that allowed the genuine expression of real emotion and to stories that required emotional dissemblance, indicating no attempt to hide the expression of real emotion. No gender difference was found in this sample. It seems likely that both cognitive and socialisation factors could account for the results.

Keywords: Australian children; display rules; emotional knowledge; reality and appearance

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of Psychology, University of Western Sydney, Australia

Publication date: 2009-12-01

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