Recognition of facial, auditory, and bodily emotions in older adults

Ted Ruffman, Jamin Halberstadt, Janice Murray
Journals of Gerontology. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 2009, 64 (6): 696-703
Understanding older adults' social functioning difficulties requires insight into their recognition of emotion processing in voices and bodies, not just faces, the focus of most prior research. We examined 60 young and 61 older adults' recognition of basic emotions in facial, vocal, and bodily expressions, and when matching faces and bodies to voices, using 120 emotion items. Older adults were worse than young adults in 17 of 30 comparisons, with consistent difficulties in recognizing both positive (happy) and negative (angry and sad) vocal and bodily expressions. Nearly three quarters of older adults functioned at a level similar to the lowest one fourth of young adults, suggesting that age-related changes are common. In addition, we found that older adults' difficulty in matching emotions was not explained by difficulty on the component sources (i.e., faces or voices on their own), suggesting an additional problem of integration.

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