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Superior recognition performance for happy masked and unmasked faces in both younger and older adults
Aging Research Center, Karolinska Institutet.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
2012 (English)In: Frontiers in Psychology, ISSN 1664-1078Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In the aging literature it has been shown that even though emotion recognition performance decreases with age, the decrease is less for happiness than other facial expressions. Studies in younger adults have also revealed that happy faces are more strongly attended to and better recognized than other emotional facial expressions. Thus, there might be a more age independent happy face advantage in facial expression recognition. By using a backward masking paradigm and varying stimulus onset asynchronies (17–267 ms) the temporal development of a happy face advantage, on a continuum from low to high levels of visibility, was examined in younger and older adults. Results showed that across age groups, recognition performance for happy faces was better than for neutral and fearful faces at durations longer than 50 ms. Importantly, the results showed a happy face advantage already during early processing of emotional faces in both younger and older adults. This advantage is discussed in terms of processing of salient perceptual features and elaborative processing of the happy face. We also investigate the combined effect of age and neuroticism on emotional face processing. The rationale was previous findings of age-related differences in physiological arousal to emotional pictures and a relation between arousal and neuroticism. Across all durations, there was an interaction between age and neuroticism, showing that being high in neuroticism might be disadvantageous for younger, but not older adults’ emotion recognition performance during arousal enhancing tasks. These results indicate that there is a relation between aging, neuroticism, and performance, potentially related to physiological arousal.

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Keyword [en]
emotion, faces, aging, masking, happy, fearful, positivity bias, neuroticism
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URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-83272DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00520OAI: diva2:574901
Available from: 2012-12-06 Created: 2012-12-06 Last updated: 2013-01-10Bibliographically approved

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Wiens, StefanFischer, Håkan
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