Psychological and Biological Approaches to Emotion

By Nancy L. Stein; Bennett Leventhal et al. | Go to book overview

11 Emerging Notions of Persons

Janellen Huttenlocher University of Chicago

Patricia SmileyUniversity of Illinois


INTRODUCTION

In the past few years we have done a series of studies of early conceptual development. Much of the work has been concerned with the emergence of person categories. These conceptual categories are different from many other categories in that they encompass two distinct types of instances. First, they include instances involving other people as observed entities. As observed, persons are material bodies that display various facial expressions, that are sources of movement and change, and so on. Second, they include instances involving the self as subject of experience. As subjects, people have internal states-- emotions, perceptions, memories, and intentions to act. The various concepts that apply to persons each encompass instances involving others as observed and self as subject. This chapter is concerned with the emergence of notions of persons in early childhood, and with the emergence of emotion categories as one type of person category.

In studying the development of notions of persons, we have used children's word meanings as evidence. The data on word meanings have been drawn from spontaneous speech. Most of our evidence has been based on the acquisition of words for intentional actions and words for persons. Children use these words frequently, and they are rich sources of information about the emergence of person categories. In contrast, words for emotions are rare in child speech and provide much less information about conceptual development. At the end of the chapter, we consider the evidence from language concerning the emergence of emotion categories, including the results of a comprehension study and the

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