“What causes 4 basic emotions?” – The frequency of symbolic elicitors in the responses of participants of different ages
Keywords:causation of emotions, symbolic elicitors of emotions, basic emotions, social cognition, theory of mind
Although it has been known for a long time that symbolic stimuli can be elicitors of emotions, the attention of researchers of social cognition (i.e. theory of mind) so far has been focused almost exclusively on natural elicitors. Using the method of structured interview, we asked 120 respondents at different ages (5 years to student age) what causes 4 basic (happiness, fear, anger, sadness) emotions, in order to determine the relative frequency of symbolic elicitors in their responses. We used the relative frequency of such elicitors as an indicator of their importance for understanding the causes of emotions. Responses were categorized by two independent coders; inter-rater reliability was 96%. Symbolic elicitors were, in high percent of responses, mentioned by respondents at all ages. We interpreted that as an indicator that such elicitors are, from an early age, part of the implicit theory of the causation of emotions and that an "omission" has been made in previous research by neglecting them. The only significant difference in the frequency of symbolic elicitors was between five-year-olds (46.4%) and older respondents (65.9% on average), which coincides with the transition from preschool to school age. The relative frequency of such elicitors remains approximately the same at older ages. Analyses of age differences in the frequency of symbolic elicitors from different subcategories showed that iconic elicitors have higher frequency at the age of 5 than among older respondents, while the opposite is the case with socio-normative elicitors; in both cases, later age differences were not statistically significant.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Vojin M Simunović
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