Children's drawings of emotional faces

Sayıl F. M.

British Journal of Developmental Psychology, vol.19, no.4, pp.493-505, 2001 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 19 Issue: 4
  • Publication Date: 2001
  • Doi Number: 10.1348/026151001166218
  • Journal Name: British Journal of Developmental Psychology
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.493-505
  • TED University Affiliated: No


In their drawings of facial expressions, children show a preference for the mouth and some other representative indicators over the eyebrows to reflect emotion in faces. The present study aimed to understand the preference for mouth and the exclusion of eyebrows in children's facial drawings. In order to test the three alternative explanations - greater demand to comprehend the eyebrows, relative saliency of the mouth/the eyebrows according to emotion and difficulty in drawing with eyebrows as oblique lines - drawing-completion, selection-construction and copying tasks were designed respectively. Four- 6-, 8-and 10-year-old children performed on happy, sad, angry and surprised emotions. Results revealed that children's mouth performance was better than the eyebrow performance in copying and drawing tasks, but not in the selection construction task. Eyebrow selections were more successful than mouth selections on angry. Children's copying and selection-construction performance improved with age but interacted with emotion and feature. Children drew the mouths more successfully than the eyebrows on all emotions (except happy) and at all ages. Children's mouth preference and eyebrow exclusion in their emotional facial drawings were related not only to their drawing inability with oblique lines and not paying attention to the details but also to their inability to capture the expressive aspect of line drawings.