Evidence of emotion knowledge in down syndrome
Emotion knowledge was examined in 19 children and adolescents with Down syndrome (DS) who were individually matched to typically developing (TD) children of equivalent mental age (3 to 6 years). The ability to identify emotions from facial cues and social context was measured. This study improved upon past research by assessing emotion knowledge without a verbal narrative of the social context (minimizing language ability from interfering with emotion judgments), by using more engaging video stimuli, and by simplifying response demands. Children viewed videos created for this study that included three types of emotion cues: face only (only the protagonist's facial expressions were shown), context only (the protagonist acted out action sequences, but his face was blurred), and context plus face (actions and facial expressions were visible). An exploratory fourth video type (incongruent) was included in which the protagonist's facial expressions contradicted what would be expected from the context. Children responded by pointing to a schematic face of a happy, sad, or fear expression. Static photographs of facial emotion expressions were also presented to follow previous DS studies. Results indicated that the participants with DS performed as well as the TD participants on every measure of emotion knowledge. Additional analyses compared DS and TD participants' performance on the static vs. dynamic expressions, emotion expressivity, empathic behaviors, and accuracy for each emotion expression. Still, there were no group differences in level of emotion knowledge or its related skills. This study underscores the importance of using developmentally sensitive measures when studying special populations like DS.