Are all teenagers emotionally illiterate? Charting a neuroscientific storying of normative deficit
Payne, M.A. (2012). Are all teenagers emotionally illiterate? Charting a neuroscientific storying of normative deficit. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, 17(2), 143-155.
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/6421
Defining ‘emotional illiteracy’ is a task located within the broader context of expert (and subsequently public) assumptions regarding the normally expectable competencies of the age group concerned. In the late 1990s a series of neuroscientific studies reporting adolescents' limited ability to recognize emotional states from facial expressions seemed to present radically new developmental benchmarks. Although these studies were subsequently subjected to considerable methodological and interpretive criticism, some incautious assertions regarding teenagers' general inability to respond appropriately, especially in emotionally charged situations, continued to flourish. This paper charts the creation and maintenance of these ideas over the past decade to illustrate how, when primary sources are not carefully checked, powerful messages for which there is dubious empirical evidence can become incorporated into expert advice. It also suggests the importance of linking neuroscientific claims to other strands of contemporary Western efforts to define and contrast normative and disordered emotional behaviour in adolescence.
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