Culture shapes 7-month-olds' perceptual strategies in discriminating facial expressions of emotion

Elena Geangu, Hiroko Ichikawa, Junpeg Lao, So Kanazawa, Masami Yamaguchi, Roberto Caldara, Chiara Turati

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review


Emotional facial expressions are thought to have evolved because they play a crucial role in species’ survival. From infancy, humans develop dedicated neural circuits to exhibit and recognize a variety of facial expressions. But there is increasing evidence that culture specifies when and how certain emotions can be expressed — social norms — and that the mature perceptual mechanisms
used to transmit and decode the visual information from emotional signals differ between Western and Eastern adults. Specifically, the mouth is more
informative for transmitting emotional signals in Westerners and the eye region for Easterners, generating culturespecific fixation biases towards these features. During development, it is recognized that cultural differences can be observed at the level of emotional reactivity and regulation, and to the culturally dominant modes of attention. Nonetheless, to our knowledge no study has explored whether culture shapes the processing of facial emotional
signals early in development. The data we report here show that, by 7 months,
infants from both cultures visually discriminate facial expressions of emotion by relying on culturally distinct fixation strategies, resembling those used by the adults from the environment in which they develop.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R663-R664
Number of pages2
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2016

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© Elsevier, 2016.

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