Washington D.C.: We have all heard this idiom "a picture is worth a thousand words," but it isn't accurate when it comes to young children, according to a recent study.
Researchers at Florida Atlantic University have revealed that when it comes to young children, "one word is worth a thousand pictures" and that, words are more powerful than appearances in how adults feel about and respond to young children.
The aim of this study was to contrast adults' reactions toward two specific indicators of maturity status in children: physical maturity, reflected by faces with different degrees of maturity, and cognitive maturity, reflecting "natural" cognition such as a child overestimating his or her abilities, and "supernatural" cognition, such as when a child attributes animate characteristics to an inanimate object.
The results indicate that children's thinking is the more important cue to their maturational status and attributions of positive and negative affect than facial appearance, said David Bjorklund.
Bjorklund noted that as children enter the preschool years, additional cues become available to assess a child's maturational status, among them language and the type of cognitive abilities that children express via language. It is during this time that children's verbalized thinking becomes the most reliable source of information for adults about children's psychological characteristics, with physical appearance assuming a more secondary or complementary role.
"From an evolutionary developmental perspective, our study shows that physical cues like big doe eyes, cherub-like cheeks and large round heads are more relevant to adults during infancy than during the preschool period," said Bjorklund. "In preschool, with the spoken language, the verbalized expressions of children's thoughts become the principal cues influencing adults' perceptions."
The study appears in Evolutionary Psychology.