Recognition of Facial Expressions of Emotion by Persons with Mental Retardation: A Matched Comparison Study

Christopher Mcalpine, Nirbhay N. Singh, Kathy A. Kendall, Cynthia R. Ellis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

48 Scopus citations


Children and adults with mental retardation were tested on their ability to recognize facial expressions of emotion. The sample consisted of 80 children and adults with mental retardation and a control group of 80 nonhandicapped children matched on mental age and gender. Ekman and Friesen's normed photographs of the six basic emotions (anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise) were used in a recognition task of facial expressions. Subjects were individually read two-sentence stories identifying a specific emotion, presented with a randomized array of the six photographs of the basic facial expressions of emotion, and then asked to select the photograph that depicted the emotion identified in the story. This procedure was repeated with 24 different stories, with each of the six basic emotions being represented four times. Results showed that, as a group, individuals with mental retardation were not as proficient as their mental-age-matched nonhandicapped control subjects at recognizing facial expressions of emotion. Although adults with mild mental retardation were more proficient at this task than those with moderate mental retardation, this finding was not true for children. There was a modest difference between the children with moderate mental retardation and their nonhandicapped matched controls in their ability to recognize facial expressions of disgust.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)543-558
Number of pages16
JournalBehavior Modification
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1992


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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