A Developmental Twin Study of Emotion Recognition and Its Negative Affective Clinical Correlates. Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVE: Youth with psychiatric disorders distinguished by irritability, including depression and associated trait neuroticism, show deficits in the ability to recognize facial expressions of emotion, particularly happiness. However, the contribution of genetic and environmental factors to this ability remains unknown. The present study examined this trait in twins to assess the genetic and environmental influences on face-emotion recognition abilities and their association with irritability, neuroticism, and depression. METHOD: Child and adolescent twins (N= 957 from 496 families) 9 to 17 years old rated their irritability (on the Affective Reactivity Index), neuroticism (on the Junior Eysenck Personality Questionnaire), and depression (on the Short Mood and Feelings Questionnaire) and completed a face-emotion labeling task. Faces depicting anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise were morphed with a neutral face, yielding 10 levels of increasing emotional expressivity. Biometrical twin analyses evaluated contributions of genetic and environmental factors to the etiology of face-emotion recognition and its association with irritability, neuroticism, and depression. RESULTS: Recognition of each emotion was heritable; common and specific sets of genetic factors influenced all emotions and individual emotions, respectively. Irritability, neuroticism, and depression were modestly and negatively correlated with emotion recognition, particularly the recognition of happiness. For irritability and neuroticism, this correlation appeared largely due to genetic factors. CONCLUSION: This study maps genetic and environmental contributions to face-emotion recognition and its association with irritability, neuroticism, and depression. Findings implicate common genetic factors in deficits regarding the recognition of happiness associated with irritability and neuroticism in childhood and adolescence.

published proceedings

  • J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry

altmetric score

  • 6.1

author list (cited authors)

  • Rappaport, L. M., Carney, D. M., Verhulst, B., Neale, M. C., Blair, J., Brotman, M. A., ... Roberson-Nay, R.

citation count

  • 15

complete list of authors

  • Rappaport, Lance M||Carney, Dever M||Verhulst, Brad||Neale, Michael C||Blair, James||Brotman, Melissa A||Pine, Daniel S||Leibenluft, Ellen||Hettema, John M||Roberson-Nay, Roxann

publication date

  • January 2018