Progress in Understanding the Emergence of Human Emotion

In the past several decades, research on emotional development has flourished. Scientists have made
progress in understanding infants’, children’s, and adults’ abilities to recognize, communicate, and
regulate their emotions. However, many questions remain unanswered or only partly answered. We are
poised to move from descriptions of aspects of emotional functioning to conceptualizing and studying the
developmental mechanisms that underlie those aspects. The gaps in our knowledge provide numerous
opportunities for further investigation. With this special issue of Developmental Psychology, we aim to
stimulate such progress, especially among colleagues at the beginning of their careers. The articles in this
issue are intended to challenge our concepts and take research on emotional development in new
directions. Toward this end, this special issue includes empirical studies, theoretical articles, novel
conceptualizations, methodological innovations, and invited commentaries from scholars across a range
of disciplines. In this introductory essay, we briefly review the history of research on emotional
development and provide an overview of the contributions of this special issue with thoughts about the
current state of the developmental science and areas in which further advancement on emotional
development must be made. These include understanding the nature of emotion itself, identifying the
mechanisms that produce developmental changes, examining emotion regulation within differing social
contexts, and creating measures of culture that acknowledge globalization, historical change, and
within-culture differences.
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