AICE member Disa Sauter together with colleagues demonstrate that culture is an important factor in developmental changes in the perception of facial and vocal affective information.
When a person’s face and voice seem to convey the same affective state, it's generally not too difficult to understand how they feel, but what happens when facial and vocal information are incongruent? In such situations, Japanese, but not Dutch people tend to rely more on vocal information. In this study, we sought to test which processing style is found in children: do we start out processing like the Japanese do or like the Dutch do? The study was done by Disa Sauter together with Misako Kawahara and Akihiro Tanaka at Tokyo Woman’s Christian University. Japanese and Dutch children were presented with emotional faces and voices with either congruent or incongruent emotions, and were asked to judge whether the person was happy or angry. Replicating previous research, East Asian adults relied more on vocal cues than did Western adults. Young children from both cultural groups, however, behaved like Western adults, relying primarily on information from the face. The proportion of responses based on vocal cues increased with age in East Asian, but not Western, participants. These results suggest that culture shapes developmental changes in the weighting of facial and vocal information when making affective judgments.