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Preferences for colours and colour-emotion combinations in early childhood

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Publication details

JournalDevelopmental Science
DatePublished - Dec 2001
Issue number4
Number of pages9
Pages (from-to)389-398
Original languageEnglish


Previous research has shown that, by the age of 3 to 4 years, children rely not only on perceptual similarity but also on shared category or other underlying structures to draw analogies. The present study extends this work by showing that children as young as 3 years old detect consistent relationships between colours and facial expressions of emotions – two phenomena that share no physical characteristics, violate conventional categories and have no obvious environmental contiguity. Two explanatory hypotheses are put forward: (a) learning by convention, which is explored against the standard of adults' and older children's matching patterns, and (b) reliance upon a common underlying but perceptually unavailable dimension – operationalized in terms of emotion and colour preferences in the context of the present study. Both explanatory approaches are discussed and avenues for future work are suggested.

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