Emotional Cognitive Scale (ECS)


Piagetian and neo-Piagetian developmental psychologists believe that childhood is marked by a series of punctuated cognitive developments. This view requires that children of increasingly older age should be ever more capable of managing cognitively demanding tasks. Furthermore, this view requires that some degree of consistency exists in terms of the age at which specific cognitive abilities are developed. The Emotional Cognitive Scale (ECS) was developed to measure childrens grasp of their own emotions by asking them how they think they would feel in a number of given situations. Importantly, the scale allows for five different simultaneous emotional responses, each of which can vary in emotion and valance. In accord with Piagetian principles, the (ECS) has been shown to facilitate responses of increasing nuance as children develop and attain greater understanding of their emotions.


The psychometric properties of the Emotional Cognitive Scale (ECS) are discussed in Wintre & Vallance (1993).

Author of Tool:

Wintre, M. G., & Vallance, D. D. A.

Key references:

Wintre, M. G., & Vallance, D. D. A. (1993). A Developmental Sequence in the Comprehension of Emotions: Multiple Emotions, Intensity, and Valence. Developmental Psychology, 30(4), 509-5. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.30.4.509

Wang, Qi. (2003). Emotion situation knowledge in American and Chinese preschool children and adults, Cognition & Emotion, 17(5), 725-746.

Primary use / Purpose:

The Emotional Cognitive Scale (ECS) was developed to measure the intensity and valency of five different emotions over 15 different scenarios in children of a young age. The scale itself is a 5-point inventory in the form of a concrete, visual apparatus; this is in order to limit the cognitive and verbal load on the children.


Emotional Cognitive Scale (ECS)


            Wintre, M. G., & Vallance, D. (1994).  A developmental sequence in the comprehension of emotions:  Intensity, multiple emotions, and valence.  Developmental Psychology, 30, 509-514. 

Basically there are15 statements for children to rate how they would feel in response to the statement and using the apparatus.

Note children may use multiple emotions, vary the intensity of the emotions, and use opposite valence emotions – but no prompting from the interviewer. However the primary emotion for which the statement was developed is indicated. Note too that the research should then ask the child why they would feel that way ( Piagetian style interview). These response should be noted for relevance.


Each emotion is essentially rated on a 5 point Likert-scale from 0 to 4.

A practice sentence was also included that targeted the emotion happy:

“You win a prize you really wanted.”


  1. Someone is trying to make you do something you don’t want to do, like clean your room.
  2. Someone calls you bad names.
  3. You don’t get your turn to win a prize.


  1. You have a terrific time at a party.
  2. Your mother is crying, you give her a hug, and she stops crying.
  3. For your birthday you get a brand new bicycle.


  1. Your best friend moves away.
  2. Your pet dies.
  3. All your friends have gone out to play but you cannot because you are sick.


  1. You lose control of your bike and almost crash.
  2. You have a nightmare.
  3. You are home all alone.


  1. You see a friend’s baby kittens playing in the yard.
  2. Someone special brings their new baby for you to see.
  3. You see a mother hug her child.