Previous research suggests that younger adults outperform older adults on emotion-matching tasks because emotion recognition ability declines with age. These studies involved tasks in which participants identified a target emotion by selecting from multiple verbal labels. The use of multiple verbal labels placed great cognitive demand on participants, influencing the results that were found in such studies. In the present study, a computer emotion-matching task was used to determine differences between younger and older adults when presented with a target stimulus expressing one of five emotions (anger, fear, disgust, happiness, and sadness) and asked to match the target emotion to one of two comparison faces presented simultaneously. One comparison face displayed no emotion, while the other displayed the same emotion as the target, but at varied intensity (20%, 40%, 60%, and 80%). In general, the results indicated that younger and older adults only minimally differed from one another in emotion-matching performance. Older adults were only outperformed on those trials involving lower intensity fear and disgust, and actually outperformed younger adults on expressions of anger, happiness, and sadness. These findings suggest that emotion recognition ability does not exhibit general age-related decline, but may be challenged by specific emotions expressed at low intensities.
Advisor(s) or Committee Chair
Dr. Elizabeth Lemerise
Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Psychiatry and Psychology | Psychological Phenomena and Processes
Snyder, Kaitlyn, "Is Younger Really Better? Age Differences in Emotion Perception" (2015). Mahurin Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects. Paper 543.