Children's understanding of pretend emotions

This preliminary study aims to investigate children’s ability to understand that the emotional expressions that occur in pretend play do not necessarily coincide with the emotions people feel inside. Previous research has found that children aged 4 and 6 have difficulty to distinguish between the external and the internal emotion of a character who pretends an emotion. In the present work, thirteen 4-year-olds and eight 6-year-olds were administered stories in which a character simulated an emotion. Differently from previous research, the questions addressed to the children did not focus on the distinction external/internal emotion but on the distinction between real/pretend emotion. Furthermore, since previous research has suggested that children may understand better selfpretence than pretence of others, the participants in our study were engaged in a pretence situation where they had to pretend to be happy. The results obtained showed that, contrary to previous research, most 4- and 6-year-olds realize that pretend emotions may not be real, and this was true both for self-pretence and for the pretence of others ​
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