Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 253–266 | Cite as

Japanese Children’s Knowledge of the Facial Components of Basic Emotions

  • Megumi Masuda
  • Pierre Gosselin
  • Michio Nomura
Original Paper


While numerous studies have investigated children’s recognition of facial emotional expressions, little evidence has been gathered concerning their explicit knowledge of the components included in such expressions. Thus, we investigated children’s knowledge of the facial components involved in the expressions of happiness, sadness, anger, and surprise. Four- and 5-year-old Japanese children were presented with the blank face of a young character, and asked to select facial components in order to depict the emotions he felt. Children’s overall performance in the task increased as a function of age, and was above chance level for each emotion in both age groups. Children were likely to select the Cheek raiser and Lip corner puller to depict happiness, the Inner brow raiser, Brow lowerer, and Lid droop to depict sadness, the Brow lowerer and Upper lid raiser to depict anger, and the Upper lid raiser and Jaw drop to depict surprise. Furthermore, older children demonstrated a better knowledge of the involvement of the Upper lid raiser in surprise expressions.


Emotion Facial expressions Explicit knowledge Japanese children 



This research was supported by a Grant-in-Aid for Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) fellows Grant Number 16J03042, and the Leading Graduates Schools Program, “Collaborative Graduate Program in Design” by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan, allocated to Megumi Masuda.


  1. Brechet, C., Picard, D., & Baldy, R. (2007). Expression des émotions dans le dessin d’un homme chez l’enfant de 5 à 11 ans. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 61, 142–153.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Brechet, C., Picard, D., & Baldy, R. (2009). How does Sam feel? Children’s labelling and drawing of basic emotions. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 27, 587–606.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bullock, M., & Russell, J. A. (1985). Further evidence on preschoolers’ interpretation of facial expressions. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 8, 15–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cox, M. V. (2005). The pictorial world of the child. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Egami, S. (2010). Preschool children’s understanding of others’ emotions: focusing on differences between emotions. Ehime University Faculty of Education Bulletin, 57, 27–32.Google Scholar
  6. Ekman, P. (1993). Facial expression and emotion. American Psychologist, 48, 384–392.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Ekman, P. (2003). Emotions revealed: Recognizing faces and feelings to improve communication and emotional life. New York, NY: Howl Books.Google Scholar
  8. Ekman, P., Friesen, W. V., & Hager, J. C. (2002). The facial action coding system CD-ROM. Salt Lake City, UT: Research Nexus.Google Scholar
  9. Frijda, N. H. (1986). The emotions. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Gao, X., & Maurer, D. (2009). Influence of intensity on children’s sensitivity to happy, sad, and fearful facial expressions. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 102, 503–521.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Golomb, C. (1992). The child’s creation of a pictorial world. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  12. Gosselin, P., & Larocque, C. (2000). Facial morphology and children’s categorization of facial expressions of emotions: A comparison between Asian and Caucasian Faces. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 16, 346–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gosselin, P., & Simard, J. (1999). Children’s knowledge of facial expressions of emotions: Distinguishing fear and surprise. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 160, 181–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Izard, C. E. (1971). The face of emotion. New York, NY: Appleton-Century-Crofts.Google Scholar
  15. Izard, C. E. (1977). Human emotions. New York, NY: Plenum Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Jolley, R. P., Fenn, K., & Jones, L. (2004). The development of children’s expressive drawings. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 22, 545–567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kikuchi, T. (2004). Development of young children’s understanding of their own facial expressions. Japanese Journal of Developmental Psychology, 15, 207–216.Google Scholar
  18. Kliemann, D., Rosenblau, G., Bölte, S., Heekeren, H., & Dziobek, I. (2013). Face puzzle—two new video-based tasks for measuring explicit and implicit aspects of facial emotion recognition. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Leung, J. P., & Singh, N. N. (1998). Recognition of facial expressions of emotion by Chinese adults with mental retardation. Behavior Modification, 22, 205–216.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Maassarani, R., Gosselin, P., Montembeault, P., & Gagnon, M. (2014). French-speaking children’s freely produced labels for facial expressions. Frontiers in Developmental Psychology, 5, 1–10.Google Scholar
  21. Markham, R., & Wang, L. (1996). Recognition of emotion by Chinese and Australian children. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 27, 616–643.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Masuda, M. (2014). The development of emotional expression and understanding in young children. Japanese Journal of Developmental Psychology, 25, 151–161.Google Scholar
  23. Picard, D., & Boulhais, M. (2011). Sex differences in expressive drawing. Personality and Individual Differences, 51, 850–855.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Sakuraba, K., & Imaizumi, S. (2001). Affect label comprehension and facial expression interpretation in 2- to 4- year olds: A developmental study. Japanese journal of Developmental Psychology, 12, 36–45.Google Scholar
  25. Sayõl, M. (2001). Children’s drawings of emotional faces. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 19, 493–505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Scherer, K. R., & Ellgring, H. (2007). Are facial expressions of emotion produced by categorical affect programs or dynamically driven by appraisal. Emotion, 7, 113–130.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Toda, S. (2003). The relation between understanding of other people’s emotion and prosocial behavior in preschoolers. Journal of Hokkaido University of Education at Kushiro, 35, 95–105.Google Scholar
  28. Vendeville, N., Brechet, C., & Blanc, N. (2015). Savoir identifier et marquer les émotions du personnage d’un récit: Rôle de l’événement déclencheur de l’émotion. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 47, 163–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Vicari, S., Snitzer Reilly, J., Pasqualetti, P., Vizzotto, A., & Caltagirone, C. (2000). Recognition of facial expressions of emotions in school-age children: The intersection between perceptual and semantic categories. Acta Paediatrica, 89, 836–845.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Watanabe, Y., & Takiguchi, C. (1986). Relation between empathy of children and that of mothers. Japanese Journal of Educational Psychology, 34, 324–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Widen, S. C., & Russell, J. A. (2003). A closer look at preschooler’s freely produced labels for facial expressions. Developmental Psychology, 39, 11–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Widen, S. C., & Russell, J. A. (2008). Children acquire emotion categories gradually. Cognitive Development, 23, 291–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Widen, S. C., & Russell, J. A. (2010). Differentiation in preschooler’s categories of emotion. Emotion, 10, 651–661.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Yamaguchi, T., Maki, Y., & Yamaguchi, H. (2012). Yamaguchi facial expression-making task in Alzheimer’s disease: A novel and enjoyable make-a-face game. Demantia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders Extra, 2, 248–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Megumi Masuda
    • 1
    • 3
  • Pierre Gosselin
    • 2
  • Michio Nomura
    • 1
  1. 1.Graduate School of EducationKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan
  2. 2.School of PsychologyUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  3. 3.Japan Society for the Promotion of ScienceTokyoJapan

Personalised recommendations