The aim of this study was to investigate the differences between children and adults in recognizing facial expressions of simple line drawings of "Chernoff's face". First, the angles of the eyebrows and mouth of Chernoff's face were changed in a stepwise way with a personal computer, and the emotional response of the subjects was evaluated by a questionnaire. Second, three drawings of non-target stimuli (neutral face, angry face, and wheelchair) and target stimuli were used to elicit event-related potentials (ERPs). Children had higher scores for the facial expressions than adults, and relied much more on the angles of the eyebrows and mouth. The major ERP findings were (1) the latencies of P100 and N170 were significantly longer in children than adults, (2) the amplitudes of P100 were significantly larger in children than adults, but the N170 amplitudes were not significantly different, and (3) a slow negative shift was recorded with a latency of 240-460 ms at the posterior-temporal site for angry face compared with neutral face in adults but not in children. These results suggest that the differences in the electrophysiological recognition of facial expressions can be set at 240 ms after appearance of the Chernoff's face in adults but not in children.
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