Facilitating Children’s Ability to Distinguish Symbols for Emotions: The Effects of Background Color Cues and Spatial Arrangement of Symbols on Accuracy and Speed of Search Purpose Communication about feelings is a core element of human interaction. Aided augmentative and alternative communication systems must therefore include symbols representing these concepts. The symbols must be readily distinguishable in order for users to communicate effectively. However, emotions are represented within most systems by schematic faces in which subtle ... Research Article
Research Article  |   November 01, 2011
Facilitating Children’s Ability to Distinguish Symbols for Emotions: The Effects of Background Color Cues and Spatial Arrangement of Symbols on Accuracy and Speed of Search
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Krista M. Wilkinson
    The Pennsylvania State University, University Park
    The Shriver Center of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Waltham
  • Julie Snell
    The Pennsylvania State University, University Park
  • Correspondence to Krista M. Wilkinson: kmw22@psu.edu
  • Editor: Marilyn Nippold (Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools)
    Editor: Marilyn Nippold (Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools)×
  • Associate Editor: Joe Reichle
    Associate Editor: Joe Reichle×
Article Information
Augmentative & Alternative Communication / Research Issues, Methods & Evidence-Based Practice / Research Articles
Research Article   |   November 01, 2011
Facilitating Children’s Ability to Distinguish Symbols for Emotions: The Effects of Background Color Cues and Spatial Arrangement of Symbols on Accuracy and Speed of Search
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, November 2011, Vol. 20, 288-301. doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2011/10-0065)
History: Received July 21, 2010 , Revised January 7, 2011 , Accepted June 9, 2011
 
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, November 2011, Vol. 20, 288-301. doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2011/10-0065)
History: Received July 21, 2010; Revised January 7, 2011; Accepted June 9, 2011
Web of Science® Times Cited: 10

Purpose Communication about feelings is a core element of human interaction. Aided augmentative and alternative communication systems must therefore include symbols representing these concepts. The symbols must be readily distinguishable in order for users to communicate effectively. However, emotions are represented within most systems by schematic faces in which subtle distinctions are difficult to represent. We examined whether background color cuing and spatial arrangement might help children identify symbols for different emotions.

Method Thirty nondisabled children searched for symbols representing emotions within an 8-choice array. On some trials, a color cue signaled the valence of the emotion (positive vs. negative). Additionally, the symbols were either (a) organized with the negatively valenced symbols at the top and the positive symbols on the bottom of the display or (b) distributed randomly throughout. Dependent variables were accuracy and speed of responses.

Results The speed with which children could locate a target was significantly faster for displays in which symbols were clustered by valence, but only when the symbols had white backgrounds. Addition of a background color cue did not facilitate responses.

Conclusions Rapid search was facilitated by a spatial organization cue, but not by the addition of background color. Further examination of the situations in which color cues may be useful is warranted.

Acknowledgments
This research is part of a larger research program supported by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grant P01 HD25995. This research was based in part on an undergraduate honor’s project completed by the second author under the supervision of the first author. Parts of this research were presented as a poster at the 2009 Convention of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association in New Orleans, LA. Thanks to Lauren Seidman, Lauren Foderaro, Jessie Miller, and Bridgett Coombs for assistance with data collection and analysis, and to Tara O’Neill for quality control and analysis of individual items. We also thank the children, families, and staff of the Child Development Laboratory, the Bennett Family Child Center, and the Daybridge Center for their generosity in offering their time and enthusiastic cooperation with this research.
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