Age effects on the implicit recognition of facial expressions.
Maclean, Katharine Dissertation 2010.pdf (670.1Kb)
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Backgrounds: A large amount of research has been put into the investigation of the discernable decline in older adults’ abilities to explicitly label the six basic emotion facial expressions. However, very little consideration has been given to the reasons behind the apparent lack of behavioural problems that this decline induces. One possible explanation is a spared implicit pathway that allows for unaffected expression recognition in adults of all ages. Aims: The study reported herein aimed firstly to replicate the previous findings that older adults are poorer at labelling expressions than younger adults, and secondly to discern whether older adults are comparable to younger adults when it comes to the implicit recognition of facial expressions. Methods & Procedures: The performance of 20 younger adults (M = 21.3 years-old) was compared with the performance of 20 older adults (M = 64.9 years-old) first on an implicit expression matching task and then on a simple facial expression labelling task. Outcomes & Results: In terms of labelling, the older group performed at a lesser standard than the younger group. Specifically older adults were significantly less accurate at identifying sadness. In terms of the implicit matching task the older participants were found to be comparable to the younger participants at matching anger, disgust and sadness. This pattern has since been replicated. Conclusions: Due to this established pattern of results it can be deduced that an implicit pathway does exist which spares older adults’ recognition of certain emotions. However this finding could be extended by further research.