Will You Be Angry Too? Infants Generalize Emotional Dispositions Across People
Ruba, Ashley Lizbeth
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Adults appreciate that different people can have different emotional reactions (anger v. neutral) to the same situations (driving in traffic). However, little is known about whether infants also view emotions as person-specific. The current study examined whether 15-month-olds infants expect emotional dispositions (anger-proneness) to be person-specific or to generalize across people. In Trials 1-3, infants watched an Experimenter perform actions on a series of objects while an Emoter reacted with either anger or neutral affect. Infants were then allowed to play with each object while the Emoter silently watched. In Trial 4, the Experimenter performed a novel action on a novel object. Infants then watched as either 1) the Emoter entered the room and expressed anger/neutral affect, or 2) a new Actor entered the room and expressed no affect. Across all trials, infants in the anger conditions were significantly more hesitant to play with the objects than infants in the neutral conditions. Critically, infants in the anger conditions were hesitant regardless of whether the previously angry Emoter or the new Actor was watching them in Trial 4. The findings suggest that infants not only inhibit their imitative behavior in the presence of an anger-prone adult, but they also generalize this emotional disposition to a new person. These results provide further insights to how infants learn about their social world through other people. Future research may manipulate either the paradigm or the identities of the Emoter/Actor in order to test the limits of infants’ generalization tendencies.
- Psychology