Transmitting and decoding facial expressions of emotion during healthy aging: More similarities than differences

Marie L. Smith, Daniel Grühn, Ann Bevitt, Mark Ellis, Oana Ciripan, Susan Scrimgeour, Michael Papasavva, Louise Ewing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Older adults tend to perform more poorly than younger adults on emotional expression identification tasks. The goal of the present studywas to test a processing mechanism that might explain these differences in emotion recognition-specifically, age-related variation in the utilization of specific visual cues. Seventeen younger and 17 older adults completed a reversecorrelation emotion categorization task (Bubbles paradigm), consisting of a large number of trials in each of which only part of the visual information used to convey an emotional facial expression was revealed to participants. The task allowed us to pinpoint the visual features each group used systematically to correctly recognize the emotional expressions shown. To address the possibility that faces of different age groups are differently processed by younger and older adults, we included younger, middle-aged, and older adult face models displaying happy, fearful, angry, disgusted, and sad facial expressions. Our results reveal strong similarity in the utilization of visual information by younger and older adult participants in decoding the emotional expressions from faces across ages-particularly for happy and fear emotions. These findings suggest that age-related differences in strategic information use are unlikely to contribute to the decline of facial expression recognition skills observed in later life.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018


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