Several studies have reported that persons with Down syndrome (DS) have difficulties recognizing emotions; however, there is insufficient research to prove that a deficit of emotional knowledge exists in DS. The aim of this study was to evaluate the recognition of emotional facial expressions without making use of emotional vocabulary, given the language problems known to be associated with this syndrome. The ability to recognize six emotions was assessed in 24 adolescents with DS. Their performance was compared to that of 24 typically developing children with the same nonverbal-developmental age, as assessed by Raven’s Progressive Matrices. Analysis of the results revealed no global difference; only marginal differences in the recognition of different emotions appeared. Study of the developmental trajectories revealed a developmental difference: the nonverbal reasoning level assessed by Raven’s matrices did not predict success on the experimental tasks in the DS group, contrary to the typically developing group. These results do not corroborate the hypothesis that there is an emotional knowledge deficit in DS and emphasize the importance of using dynamic, strictly nonverbal tasks in populations with language disorders.
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