Publication Date

Spring 2021

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Andrew Mienaltowski (Director), Matthew Shake, and Sharon Mutter

Degree Program

Department of Psychological Sciences

Degree Type

Master of Science


Age differences are apparent in using verbal labels of emotion to categorize emotion face stimuli. Particularly, older adults have more difficulty detecting emotion cues like anger and fear relative to younger adults, but seem to have less difficulty with disgust cues. However, age differences are diminished in situations when participants are limited to two possible emotion choices or are required to simply match stimuli based on emotion cues without the use of labels. One question that emerges from the disparities in these findings is the role that emotion labels themselves play in driving possible age differences in emotion perception. The current study asked younger and older adults to perform a match-to-sample task in which, after being primed with an emotion label, they observed a mixed emotion stimulus (e.g., combination of anger and disgust) and then indicated which of two face standards was identical to the original stimulus. The standards were manipulated such that, paired with the original stimulus, participants also observed a second standard that was dominated by one of the emotions found in the initial mixed emotion stimulus. Should participants be primed by the dominating emotion, they would be more likely to misremember the initial stimulus by choosing the standard stimulus with a stronger emotional signal for the emotion specified in the word prime. The results showed similar performance among the control condition and the conditions of different dominating emotion in both age groups, indicating that younger and older adults relied on facial cues from the initial stimulus rather than the conceptual information found in the word primes to match the standard stimulus to the target. While age differences were limited, a correlation analysis demonstrated that fluid cognitive abilities may matter more to older adults’ performance than to younger adults’ performance in the memory task. Additional questions were also discussed for future studies to address and fully understand how exactly lexical stimuli might influence face perception and memory performance in a delayed match-to-sample task.


Cognition and Perception | Cognitive Psychology | Psychology | Social Psychology