Effects of age and emotional intensity on the recognition of facial emotion

Vasiliki Orgeta, Louise H Phillips
Experimental Aging Research 2008, 34 (1): 63-79
Older adults have a specific deficit in their ability to identify some negative facial emotions. The present study investigated the influence of intensity of expression on 40 young and 40 older adults' recognition of facial expressions of emotion. Older adults showed no impairment in the perception of low-intensity subtle expressions of happiness, surprise, and disgust. However, older adults were worse at recognizing all intensities of sadness, anger, and fear, with the greatest impairment at 50% intensity. Observed age differences were not influenced by covarying general facial processing skills, but were substantially reduced when a measure of general cognitive functioning was covaried. The current study suggests that age differences in identifying facial expressions of emotion are not caused by decreasing visual perceptual abilities, but may partially overlap with general cognitive changes.

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