The acquisition of emotion-laden words from childhood to adolescence

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Studies investigating how children acquire emotional vocabularies have mainly focused on words that describe feelings or affective states (emotion-label words, e.g., joy) trough subjective assessments of the children’s lexicon reported by their parents or teachers. In the current cross-sectional study, we objectively examined the age of acquisition of words that relate to emotions without explicitly referring to affective states (emotion-laden words, e.g., cake, tomb, rainbow) using a picture naming task. Three hundred and sixty participants belonging to 18 age groups from preschool to adolescence overtly named line drawings corresponding to positive, negative, and neutral concrete nouns. The results of regression and mixed model analyses indicated that positive emotion-laden words are learnt earlier in life. This effect was independent of the contribution of other lexical and semantic factors (familiarity, word frequency, concreteness, word length). It is proposed that the prioritized acquisition of positive emotion-laden words might be the consequence of the communicative style and contextual factors associated with the interaction between children and caregivers. We also discuss the implications of our findings for proposals that highlight the role of language in emotion perception and understanding.
CRUE-CSIC (Acuerdos Transformativos 2022)