How do children who understand mixed emotion represent them in freehand drawings of themselves and others?

Esther Burkitt, Dawn Watling

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This research is the first to assess children’s representation of mixed emotion using a freehand drawing task. 241 5 - 11 year olds completed a drawing and a colour preference task. Children heard a condition appropriate vignette about themselves or a protagonist designed to evoke mixed emotion, and were asked to draw the self or the protagonist experiencing neutral, happy, and sad affect. Children who reported mixed emotions after the story also drew themselves or the protagonist experiencing mixed emotion. For mixed emotion, children used red, green and blue more in drawings of the protagonist, and yellow more in drawings of the self. Interestingly, strategies for mixed emotion drawings were similar to those used for happy drawings; more specifically, in drawings of the self, children were particularly more likely to use smiles (for happy and sad drawings) and fewer frowns. Findings are discussed in relation to self-presentational behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)935-955
Number of pages21
JournalEducational Psychology
Issue number5
Early online date4 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Mixed emotion
  • childhood
  • drawing
  • self-presentation
  • colour

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