Effects of age and task difficulty on recognition of facial affect

Vasiliki Orgeta
Journals of Gerontology. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 2010, 65B (3): 323-7
Current evidence suggests that older adults are less accurate than young adults in their ability to identify facial expressions of emotion. In the present study, young and older adults' ability to correctly recognize facial affect representative of 6 different emotions (happiness, surprise, disgust, fear, anger, and sadness) was examined in 3 conditions varying in difficulty. Task difficulty was measured by varying the number of labels available in a forced choice recognition task to 2, 4, and 6. Results showed that age differences were present in the 2 more difficult conditions for fear and sadness. Older adults were impaired in recognizing facial expressions of surprise only in the 4-label condition. Current findings suggest that task difficulty moderates age differences in emotion labeling. The present study has contributed to previous research by illuminating the conditions under which age differences in the accuracy of labeling of facial affect are more likely to be observed.

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