Preschoolers' Attributions of the Situational Determinants of Others' Naturally Occurring Emotions

Richard Fabes, Nancy Eisenberg, Sharon E. McCormick, Michele S. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

40 Scopus citations

Abstract

We conducted this study to examine preschoolers' use of situational information in forming attributions about others' naturally occurring, spontaneous emotions. Preschoolers were observed and interviewed about the reasons for other children's naturally occurring emotional reactions as well as about their own strategies for ameliorating others' negative affect. It was found that preschoolers were accurate in identifying the situational determinants of others' real emotions and that their strategies for remediating negative affect in others were consistent with the type and attributional basis of the emotion to be altered. Moreover, children used contextual information in significantly different and meaningful ways across and within emotions. For example, children's causal explanations for others' emotional reactions were significantly less likely to be focused on the emitter's behavior for anger reactions, whereas they were significantly less likely to be focused on the eliciter's behavior for sad reactions. The results are consistent with the conclusion that preschoolers are responsive to contextual information in formulating judgments about others' spontaneous emotions and are discussed in terms of current research concerning children's emotional behavior and reasoning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)376-385
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Volume24
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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