The mysterious emotional life of Little Red Riding Hood



Publication Details

Harris, P. L., de Rosnay, M. & Ronfard, S. (2014). The mysterious emotional life of Little Red Riding Hood. In K. H. Lagattuta (Eds.), Children and Emotion: New Insights into Developmental Affective Science (pp. 106-118). Basel, Switzerland: Karger.


It is well-established that children realize around the age of 4 years that someone might approach a situation with a false belief about what it holds in store. Despite this insight, 4- and even 5-year-olds have difficulty in working out what the person will feel about the upcoming situation. They claim for example that even if Little Red Riding Hood mistakenly thinks there is only her grandmother waiting for her inside the cottage and that she knows nothing about the wolf, she will still feel afraid. We review a variety of experiments in which children display this gap between the grasp of a protagonist's emotion as compared to a protagonist's belief. We also describe new findings showing that children's attribution of emotion to a story character is a dynamic process. As the story character approaches an unexpected denouement, children's tendency to misattribute emotion intensifies. By implication, children's emotion attributions are not a fixed or static function of their current theory-of-mind. They fluctuate as the story unfolds.

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