Emotion recognition in children with profound and severe deafness : do they have a deficit in perceptual processing?
Findings from several studies have suggested that deaf children have difficulties with emotion identification and that these may impact upon social skills. The authors of these studies have typically attributed such problems to delayed language acquisition and/or opportunity to converse about personal experiences with other people (Peterson & Siegal, 1995, 1998). The current study aimed to investigate emotion identification in children with varying levels of deafness by specifically testing their ability to recognize perceptual aspects of emotions depicted in upright or inverted human and cartoon faces. The findings from the study showed that, in comparison with both chronological- and mental-age-matched controls, the deaf children were significantly worse at identifying emotions. However, like controls, their performance decreased when emotions were presented on the inverted faces, thus indexing a typical configural processing style. No differences were found across individuals with different levels of deafness or in those with and without signing family members. The results are supportive of poor emotional identification in hearing-impaired children and are discussed in relation to delays in language acquisition and intergroup differences in perceptual processing.