Developing an Understanding of Emotion Categories: Lessons from Objects

Katie Hoemann, Rachel Wu, Vanessa LoBue, Lisa M. Oakes, Fei Xu, Lisa Feldman Barrett

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


How and when infants and young children begin to develop emotion categories is not yet well understood. Research has largely treated the learning problem as one of identifying perceptual similarities among exemplars (typically posed, stereotyped facial configurations). However, recent meta-analyses and reviews converge to suggest that emotion categories are abstract, involving high-dimensional and situationally variable instances. In this paper we consult research on the development of abstract object categorization to guide hypotheses about how infants might learn abstract emotion categories because the two domains present infants with similar learning challenges. In particular, we consider how a developmental cascades framework offers opportunities to understand how and when young children develop emotion categories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-51
Number of pages13
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


  • abstract categories
  • emotion concepts
  • emotional development
  • object categorization


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