"Emotion concepts across development"
Emotion concepts (i.e., internal representations of what defines any given emotion) allow people to identify and communicate about what they are feeling by translating affective experiences into specific emotion types like “excited” or “angry.” This talk will discuss how emotion concepts develop across childhood and adolescence and what this means for our understanding of emotions more broadly. In a behavioral study of 203 participants aged 4-25 we found that emotion concepts become more abstract and multidimensional across development and that adolescence is a period of heightened difficulty differentiating between negative emotions. Interestingly, we also found that a growing vocabulary scaffolds the development of adult-like emotion concepts. These insights into the normative development of emotion concepts shed light on the mechanisms underlying age-related differences in emotional experiences, and they expose previously understudied cognitive processes that are central to adult emotion representation (e.g., the ability to conceptualize emotions as abstract states that generalize across situations). Both the social psychological and translational relevance of this work will be discussed in light of research showing that emotion language relates to emotion regulation and psychopathology across development.