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Psychol Aging. 1991 Mar;6(1):28-35.

Emotion, physiology, and expression in old age.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley 94720.


Emotion-specific autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity was studied in 20 elderly people (age 71-83 years, M = 77) who followed muscle-by-muscle instructions for constructing facial prototypes of emotional expressions and relived past emotional experiences. Results indicated that (a) patterns of emotion-specific ANS activity produced by these tasks closely resembled those found in other studies with younger Ss, (b) the magnitude of change in ANS measures was smaller in older than in younger Ss, (c) patterns of emotion-specific ANS activity showed generality across the 2 modes of elicitation, (d) emotion self-reports and spontaneous production of emotional facial expressions that occurred during relived emotional memories were comparable with those found in younger Ss, (e) elderly men and women did not differ in emotional physiology or facial expression, and (f) elderly women reported experiencing more intense emotions when reliving emotional memories than did elderly men.

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