When one thinks of LEGO, controversy isn't usually something that comes to mind.  But what if LEGOs were giving children the wrong idea about emotions?

Since their debut in 1975, the iconic LEGO figures have featured primarily happy and angry faces, but according to a new study, the ratio of happy faces to angry faces has recently shifted in favor of angry faces.  The study consisted of participants viewing the faces of 628 LEGO figures released from 1975 to 2010, and rating those faces on a scale for anger, happiness, and other emotions.  According to the study, led by Christopher Bartneck of New Zealand's University of Canterbury Human Interface Technology Laboratory,

"Our cluster analysis shows that toy design has become a more complex design space in which the imaginary world of play does not only consist of a simple division of good versus evil," the researchers write, "but a world in which heroes are scared and villains can have superior smile [sic]."

In 1989, LEGO began producing more variety in their figures' facial expressions, with "happy" still being the most frequent.  But over the past few years the number of angry faces has increased, leading researchers to wonder if LEGO has shifted from focusing on building to focusing on conflict.

But other toy lines focus on conflict, such as G.I. Joe, so why worry about LEGO?  Researchers has estimated that LEGO is so popular and wide-spread in our world that there are 75 LEGO blocks for every person on the planet.  So it would be fair to say that a majority of children today will be influenced by LEGOs in some way.

"We cannot help but wonder how the move from only positive faces to an increasing number of negative faces impacts how children play," the researchers write. "The children that grow up with LEGO today will remember not only smileys, but also anger and fear in the Minifigures’ faces."

I wonder if the researchers took into account that in the past several years LEGO has released many licensed sets of films like "Harry Potter" and "Lord of the Rings", where its likely more "angry" faces would be produced.

via PopSci