Experiential Influences on Multimodal Perception of Emotion


  • The authors wish to thank Jenny Saffran for helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. We also appreciate the assistance of Anna Bechner and Andrew Goodman in the collection of these data, and gratefully acknowledge Martha Alibali and Alexander Shackman for discussions regarding the analysis of these data. These experiments would not be possible without the participation of many children and their families, for whose collaboration we are extremely appreciative. This research was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health to Seth Pollak (MH61285, MH68858). Jessica Shackman was also supported by a National Institutes of Mental Health Training Program in Emotion Research (MH18931), and a University of Wisconsin Graduate Fellowship.

concerning this article should be addressed to Seth D. Pollak, 1202 West Johnson Street, University of Wisconsin at Madison, Madison, WI 53706-8190. Electronic mail may be sent to spollak@wisc.edu.


The impact of 2 types of learning experiences on children's perception of multimodal emotion cues was examined. Children (aged 7–12 years) were presented with conflicting facial and vocal emotions. The effects of familiarity were tested by varying whether emotions were presented by familiar or unfamiliar adults. The salience of particular emotional expressions was tested by contrasting the performance of physically abused and nonabused children. Children exhibited a preference for auditory expressions produced by their mothers but not by strangers. Additionally, abused children were biased to rely on auditory cues when their own abusive mother was expressing anger. These results are discussed in terms of the impact of both typical and atypical early experiences on the development of emotion perception.