Breadth of emotion vocabulary in early adolescence

Bazhydai, Marina and Ivcevic, Zorana and Widen, Sherri and Brackett, Marc (2019) Breadth of emotion vocabulary in early adolescence. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 38 (4). pp. 378-404. ISSN 0276-2366

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Studies of emotion vocabulary and understanding typically focus on early childhood. Yet, emotion abilities continue to develop into adolescence, making it an important and underinvestigated area of research. This study presents evidence that adolescents’ emotion vocabulary undergoes active development, becomes more broad and sophisticated, varies by gender, and is not captured adequately by recognition-based approaches. Adolescents were asked to generate emotion words for five emotion categories—happy, relaxed, angry, sad, and nervous. Responses included emotion words (e.g., joyous) and nonemotion terms such as metaphors (e.g., boiling), social experiences (e.g., underappreciated), and personality traits (e.g., shy). Girls generated significantly more responses than boys. Older adolescents generated significantly more emotion words (e.g., describing someone who is happy as joyful, exuberant or ecstatic), while younger adolescents produced more nonemotion responses (e.g., describing someone who is happy as smiley, friendly, or full of life). Students’ grade, total number of responses they produced, and performance on the recognition test of emotion understanding predicted their emotion vocabulary.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Imagination, Cognition and Personality
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The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 38(4), 2019, © SAGE Publications Ltd, 2019 by SAGE Publications Ltd at the Imagination, Cognition and Personality page: on SAGE Journals Online:
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16 Aug 2018 08:20
Last Modified:
27 Feb 2024 01:28