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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2008;32(4):863-81. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2008.01.001. Epub 2008 Jan 11.

A meta-analytic review of emotion recognition and aging: implications for neuropsychological models of aging.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Otago, Box 56, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand.


This meta-analysis of 28 data sets (N=705 older adults, N=962 younger adults) examined age differences in emotion recognition across four modalities: faces, voices, bodies/contexts, and matching of faces to voices. The results indicate that older adults have increased difficulty recognising at least some of the basic emotions (anger, sadness, fear, disgust, surprise, happiness) in each modality, with some emotions (anger and sadness) and some modalities (face-voice matching) creating particular difficulties. The predominant pattern across all emotions and modalities was of age-related decline with the exception that there was a trend for older adults to be better than young adults at recognising disgusted facial expressions. These age-related changes are examined in the context of three theoretical perspectives-positivity effects, general cognitive decline, and more specific neuropsychological change in the social brain. We argue that the pattern of age-related change observed is most consistent with a neuropsychological model of adult aging stemming from changes in frontal and temporal volume, and/or changes in neurotransmitters.

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