Psychology professor conducting children’s feeling-words study

MONACA, Pa. — Sad. Happy. Angry. Thoughtful. Frustrated.

How many feeling words can your child rattle off in a minute?

That’s what Penn State Beaver Assistant Professor of Psychology Amy Camodeca is measuring in her latest study, and she’s looking for 100 children between the ages of 6 and 18 to help her

The study requires participants to answer a few demographic questions and then name as many feeling words as they can in one minute. The whole process takes about five minutes, and participants receive a $10 gift card to Toys R Us, Barnes & Noble or Hot Topic for their trouble.

It’s all part of Camodeca’s quest to find a new measure for diagnosing autism.

Currently, the best measure for diagnosis is the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, or ADOS, which requires medical professionals administering the test to undergo hours of specialized training first. So those without ADOS training frequently use a questionnaire instead. The problem is that these questionnaires often are not able to differentiate autism from other disorders.

Camodeca believes there’s a more reliable way compared to questionnaires, and she thinks it may be related to our ability to identify emotions quickly.

It’s generally accepted that children with autism have more difficulty with social and emotional understanding. So it stands to reason that those with autism will have more trouble with her task of naming feeling words than those without autism. And that discrepancy could be another “tell” in the diagnosis of the disorder.

"Really what I am trying to identify is some level of automaticity of social understanding, of which part of that is emotion recognition and understanding, and part of that might be how quickly emotions can be named,” Camodeca said.

But she won’t know any of this for certain until she conducts her study and compares her results.

To take part, parents need to sign a consent form and bring their child or children to Penn State Beaver’s campus. Appointments are flexible and can be scheduled by emailing Camodeca at [email protected] or calling her at 724-773-3861.


April Johnston

Public Relations Director, Penn State Beaver

Work Phone