Cognitive aging explains age-related differences in face-based recognition of basic emotions except for anger and disgust

Atsunobu Suzuki, Hiroko Akiyama
Neuropsychology, Development, and Cognition. Section B, Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition 2013, 20 (3): 253-70
This study aimed at a detailed understanding of the possible dissociable influences of cognitive aging on the recognition of facial expressions of basic emotions (happiness, surprise, fear, anger, disgust, and sadness). The participants were 36 older and 36 young adults. They viewed 96 pictures of facial expressions and were asked to choose one emotion that best described each. Four cognitive tasks measuring the speed of processing and fluid intelligence were also administered, the scores of which were used to compute a composite measure of general cognitive ability. A series of hierarchical regression analyses revealed that age-related deficits in identifying happiness, surprise, fear, and sadness were statistically explained by general cognitive ability, while the differences in anger and disgust were not. This provides clear evidence that age-related cognitive impairment remarkably and differentially affects the recognition of basic emotions, contrary to the common view that cognitive aging has a uniformly minor effect.

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