Smiling enemies: Young children better recall mean individuals who smile

Xianwei Meng*, Tatsunori Ishii, K. Sugimoto, Ruiting Song, Yusuke Moriguchi, Katsumi Watanabe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Remembering whether a person is cooperative is essential in social interactions. It has been shown that adults have better memory of a person who showed an incongruence between emotional expression and expected behavior (e.g., smiling while stealing). To examine whether children would show similar emotional incongruity effects, we examined 70 children aged 5 or 6 years. They obtained coins that could be exchanged later for rewards (stickers) by answering quiz questions. Then, they participated in the coin collection game where individual persons with smiling or angry expressions appeared one at a time on a computer monitor. These same individuals then either gave coins to or took coins away from the children, leading to congruent (smiling giver and angry taker) and incongruent (smiling taker and angry giver) conditions. After the game, children needed to choose between two faces to indicate which one previously appeared in the game. Participants recognized faces better under the incongruent conditions. In particular, the smiling taker was recognized significantly better than the angry taker, whereas no difference was observed for the smiling and angry givers. Evidently, 5- and 6-year-olds better remember individuals whose facial expression or appearance is incongruent with their expected behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104672
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Dec


  • Children
  • Emotional incongruity effect
  • Expectancy violation
  • Face memory
  • Facial expression
  • Social exchange

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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