Association between action kinematics and emotion perception across adolescence

Edey, Rosanna; Yon, Daniel; Dumontheil, Iroise and Press, Clare. 2020. Association between action kinematics and emotion perception across adolescence. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 46(7), pp. 657-666. ISSN 0096-1523 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Research with adults suggests that we interpret others’ internal states from kinematic cues, using models calibrated to our own action experiences. Changes in action production that occur during adolescence may therefore have implications for adolescents’ understanding of others. Here we examined whether, like adults, adolescents use velocity cues to determine others’ emotions, and whether any emotion perception differences would be those predicted based on differences in action production. We measured preferred walking velocity in groups of Early (11-12 years old), Middle (13-14 years old) and Late (16-18 years old) adolescents, and adults, and recorded their perception of happy, angry and sad ‘point-light walkers’. Preferred walking velocity decreased across age and ratings of emotional stimuli with manipulated velocity demonstrated that all groups used velocity cues to determine emotion. Importantly, the relative intensity ratings of different emotions also differed across development in a manner that was predicted based on the group differences in walking velocity. Further regression analyses demonstrated that emotion perception was predicted by own movement velocity, rather than age or pubertal stage per se. These results suggest that changes in action production across adolescence are indeed accompanied by corresponding changes in how emotions are perceived from velocity. These findings indicate the importance of examining differences in action production across development when interpreting differences in understanding of others.

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CP was funded by Leverhulme Trust (RPG-2016-105) and Wellcome Trust (204770/Z/16/Z; which also funded RE) grants. DY was supported by a doctoral studentship from the Economic and Social Research Council [ES/J500057/1]. We are grateful to Kaat Alaerts for helpful guidance concerning the stimuli.

©American Psychological Association, 2020. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. Please do not copy or cite without author's permission. The final article is available, upon publication, at:


Adolescence; emotion perception; body perception; action kinematics

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12 February 2020Accepted

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26 Mar 2020 12:08

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09 May 2022 15:21

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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