Socially anxious kids misread faces, face trouble

April 1st, 2011 - 1:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, April 1 (IANS) Children suffering from extreme social anxiety often misread faces, confusing angry faces with sad ones.

“If you misread facial expressions, you’re in social trouble, no matter what other social skills you have,” says Emory University psychologist Steve Nowicki, who developed the tests used in the study.

Some of them long to interact with others, says Nowicki, and may try to comfort someone they think is sad, but who is actually angry, reports the Journal of Genetic Psychology.

“I’ve seen these kids trying to make a friend, and keep trying, but they keep getting rebuffed and are never aware of the reason why,” says Nowicki. “They want to help because they’re good kids.”

The study was co-authored by Amy Walker, former undergraduate student at Emory, now at Yeshiva University, according to an Emory statement.

By identifying the patterns of errors in nonverbal communication, Nowicki hopes to create better diagnostic tools and interventions for those affected with behavioral disorders.

For more than two decades, in association with Emory psychologist Marshall Duke, Nowicki has produced a groundbreaking body of work on how non-verbal communication impacts a child’s development.

“My heart went out to these kids,” says Nowicki. “I had the idea that nonverbal communication could be taught. It’s a skill, not something mysterious.”

Nowicki and Duke termed the coin “dyssemia”, meaning the inability to process signs. They also developed the Diagnostic Analysis of Nonverbal Accuracy (DANVA) to assess subtle cues to emotional expressions, including visual signals and tone and cadence of voice.

DANVA is now widely used by researchers in studies of everything from emotionally disturbed children to the relationships between doctors and their patients.

-Indo-Asian News Service

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