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J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2008 Nov;63(6):P337-43.

Interpretation of emotionally ambiguous faces in older adults.

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  • 1School of Psychology, M304, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley 6009, Western Australia.


Research suggests that there is an age-related decline in the processing of negative emotional information, which may contribute to the reported decline in emotional problems in older people. We used a signal detection approach to investigate the effect of normal aging on the interpretation of ambiguous emotional facial expressions. High-functioning older and younger adults indicated which emotion they perceived when presented with morphed faces containing a 60% to 40% blend of two emotions (mixtures of happy, sad, or angry faces). They also completed measures of mood, perceptual ability, and cognitive functioning. Older and younger adults did not differ significantly in their ability to discriminate between positive and negative emotions. Response-bias measures indicated that older adults were significantly less likely than younger adults to report the presence of anger in angry-happy face blends. Results are discussed in relation to other research into age-related effects on emotion processing.

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