Emotion as information: children learn about the world from others’ emotional expressions
Yang Wu, Postdoc with Hyowon Gweon, Department of Psychology, Stanford University
From parent-child interactions to formal pedagogy, children learn a great deal from others in diverse social contexts. Research on early social learning has focused on how children learn about the world from adults’ pedagogical demonstrations and verbal instructions. Yet, adults also display various emotional expressions when they interact with a child, and their instructions are often accompanied by expressions such as surprise (e.g., to introduce something unexpected), excitement (e.g., to demonstrate something cool), and disappointment (e.g., to indicate the absence of a desired outcome). What are the roles of these emotional expressions in early learning? In this talk, I will present preliminary work showing that young children readily consider others' emotional expressions as a rich source of information, and use them to guide their attention (i.e., looking time; Study 1), exploration (Study 2) and language acquisition (Study 3). These studies highlight the significance of “emotion as information” in children’s early learning and development, and move us towards a more comprehensive science of learning in social contexts.