An Examination of Referential and Affect Specificity with Five Emotions in Infancy
Referential specificity and affect specificity were examined in 12- to 14-month-olds (n = 20), and 16- to 18-month-olds (n = 20). Infants were presented with a televised social referencing paradigm involving an actress who emoted a simple descriptive message to one of two objects appearing on the video. The actress altered her affective message using a neutral baseline first, followed by 5 discrete emotions (anger, fear, sadness, happiness, surprise). Infants were given 30 s to interact with the objects after watching the affective episode. Older infants demonstrated referential and affect specificity, as evidenced by their differential treatment of the target and distracter toy in response to messages of anger, fear, surprise, and happiness. In contrast, the younger infants did not show evidence of either referential or affect specificity, as evidenced by the lack of differentiation in their treatment of the target and distracter toy in response to positive and negative emotional messages across all emotional episodes.