Attribution of Emotions to Neutral Faces by Adolescents In the Pre- And Postoperative Period and Their Mothers



The work examines the perception of faces by adolescents and their mothers under the stress associated with the surgery. We hypothesized that stress can facilitate attribution of negative emotions to neutral faces, while feelings of support from the mother and others can play the opposite role. This means that the bias of emotions attributed to neutrals can be used to assess the level of stress. The study involved: adolescents N1 = 46, 12—17 years old, (M = 14.02, SD = 1.57), 59% boys who were treated in the department of pediatric bone pathology and adolescent orthopedics of National Medical Research Center of Traumatology and Orthopedics named after N.N. Priorov, as well as their mothers N2 = 46 (32—51 years old, M = 41.24, SD = 4.47). The following methods were used: Social support questionnaire SOZU-22, Varga-Stolin parental attitude questionnaire, Perceived stress scales for children and adults, Pain scale. Respondents were asked to chose the most suitable adjective to each of 11 images of emotionally neutral faces. The hypotheses put forward were generally not confirmed. For mothers, despite the absence of changes in the level of stress after child’s surgery treatment, the frequency of choosing positive emotions significantly increases and the frequency of attributing negative emotions to neutral faces decreases. In children, there is a significant decrease in stress after surgery, but the change in the assessment of neutral faces is associated not with the stress level, but with the assessment of pain, as well as with the characteristics of the mother’s attitude and characteristics of social support. At the same time, differences were revealed between the results of girls and boys.

General Information

Keywords: adolescents, attribution of emotions, neutral faces, stress, surgery, social support, parenting attitudes

Journal rubric: Face Science

Article type: scientific article


Funding. The reported study was funded by Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR), project number 18-00-00393 К (18-00-00049).

For citation: Nikitina E.A. Attribution of Emotions to Neutral Faces by Adolescents In the Pre- And Postoperative Period and Their Mothers. Eksperimental'naâ psihologiâ = Experimental Psychology (Russia), 2021. Vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 53–67. DOI: 10.17759/exppsy.2021140204.


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Information About the Authors

Elena A. Nikitina, PhD in Psychology, researcher, Institute of psychology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



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