Sunway University and Lancaster University Researchers Conduct Study on Infants' Basic Emotions

SUNWAY CITY, Malaysia, April 26, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Dr. Yong Min Hooi of the Department of Psychology at Sunway University, Malaysia and Dr. Elena Geangu of the Department of Psychology at Lancaster University, United Kingdom teamed up for a research project, the eye gaze behaviour on basic emotions in Malaysian infants.

In their study which was funded by the Lancaster Small Grant Scheme 2016, they tested 21 Malaysian infants; 14 females, 4 Malays, 13 Chinese, and 4 Indians with an average age of 8.11 months. They were shown two female faces each (Caucasian and Asian) depicting six basic emotions (anger, disgust, fear, happiness, surprise, and sadness) and a neutral facial expression. Each infant viewed the four females' seven emotional expressions and some filler images (a ball, boat and giraffe) for 5 seconds in random order.

"Our results showed that when shown happy faces, our infants looked longer at Asian eyes compared to a Caucasian's, and more frequently too. There was no difference in their focus in our observations for Asian or Caucasian eyes and mouths for other emotions," said Yong.

"Our findings are consistent with other infant researchers who conducted a study on how culture shapes 7-month-olds' perceptual strategies in discriminating facial expressions of emotion. They found that infants looked longer at the eyes but not at the mouth for both happy and fearful expressions. However, we didn't find any clear difference for the fearful expression. Our finding demonstrates that familiarity (in this case, race) is useful in identifying emotions, a preference for positive expression over others, and that the infants have yet to develop a fully working schema on emotional face perception for negative expressions," added Yong, who recently has been awarded a GBP128,461 grant for a project on 'Social Cognition and Executive Function Among Older Adults in the UK and Malaysia: Links to Socio-Economic Factors'.

Recent studies on other-race effect (ORE) have found that infants as young as 6 months can differentiate Asian and Caucasian faces, although there are suggestions that effects of mono and multi-cultural societies influence the viewing strategies on how faces are perceived. There is currently little research evidence demonstrating the ORE correlates with emotion recognition in infants. Most studies report that individuals have higher accuracy for their own race over other races, but this difference is minimised when the individuals have more contact with other races.

Sunway University is one of Malaysia's leading private universities with a 5-Star (Excellent) rating in the Emerging University category in SETARA 2017 by the Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia, and ranked by QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) Asia University Rankings 2018 in the top 2.5% of universities in Asia. The University which currently has nine research centres pursuing research across various fields of study also organises international symposiums, forums and talks in partnership with renowned universities such as Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard in various fields related to education, finance, medicine, technology and sustainable development.