The Effect Auditory and Contextual Emotional Cues on the Ability to Recognise Facial Expressions of Emotion in Healthy Adult Aging
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The majority of previous research into the relationship between emotion recognition and healthy adult aging finds an age-related decline in facial emotion recognition accuracy in individuals over 60. However, this apparent age-related decline in emotion recognition accuracy is at odds with research in other areas. One possible explanation for this inconsistency is that experimental tasks of the majority of studies into emotion recognition and healthy adult aging lack ecological validity and thus their findings are not applicable to real life. The current study, like only a few before, aims to explore the relationship between facial emotion recognition and healthy adult aging with the use of more ecologically valid tasks. Emotion recognition accuracy was assessed in 21 younger (19 – 25 years) and 19 older adults (60 – 87 years) on 3 tasks of lower ecologically validity involving the recognition of a uni-modal emotional stimulus (e.g. faces only, voices only, or context only), and 3 tasks of higher ecologically validity involving facial emotion recognition while multiple congruent stimuli were presented (e.g. faces x voices, faces x context, & faces x voices x context). The study found that older participants were worse at recognising emotion in 2 out of 3 lower ecologically valid tasks (e.g. faces and voices only). In contrast, no age differences were found in the 3 higher ecologically valid tasks and accuracy in both age groups increased. Facial emotion recognition accuracy was highest on the faces x voices x context task with no significant difference between the faces x voices and faces x context tasks. The findings are discussed in relation to previous research into emotion recognition and healthy adult aging, other psychological areas, and the real world implications of the current findings.