Speaker: Dr. Alexis Smith, UCSD
From early in development, children attend to others’ emotions.
Classically, research on early sensitivity to emotions has focused on children’s understanding of, and reasoning about, someone else’s emotional state (e.g., emotion mapping, social referencing).
Yet emotions are rich in information and carry a myriad of information about many aspects of the world, not just a reflection of a person’s current state.
My research explores how infants and young children use emotions to draw inferences about diverse aspects of the world around them.
In this talk, I will argue that toddlers can use emotion expressions to infer the presence of hidden objects, that infants use knowledge of social information to predict others’ emotions, and that preschoolers can represent emotions as mental content in others’ minds.
Across these three sets of experiments, I aim to emphasize the domain-generality of emotion reasoning – that, starting in infancy, we use emotions to signal dynamic, multi-faceted relationships between people and the environment.