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Psychol Aging. 2012 Dec;27(4):1066-81. doi: 10.1037/a0029112. Epub 2012 Jun 25.

Face recognition memory across the adult life span: event-related potential evidence from the own-age bias.

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DFG Research Unit Person Perception and Department for General Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, Jena, Germany.


Young adult participants are more accurate at remembering young as compared with old faces (own-age bias). This study investigated behavioral and event-related potential (ERP) correlates of recognition memory in 4 consecutive age categories (ranging from 19-29, 30-44, 45-59, and 60-80 years), both with respect to face and participant age. Young and young middle-aged participants yielded more accurate recognition memory for both young and young middle-aged as compared to old middle-aged and old faces, suggesting that the own-age bias in adults is not exclusively directed toward age-congruent "in-group" faces. No own-age bias was observed in old middle-aged and elderly participants. Analysis of ERPs revealed significant positive correlations of both N170 latency and amplitude with participant age, thus, suggesting an age-related delay of processing speed and an increase in processing demands at early perceptual stages of face processing. Furthermore, an ERP old-new effect (400-700 ms), with more positive amplitudes for hits as compared with correct rejections, was detected in young and young middle-aged participants but not in the 2 older groups. Because these older groups did not demonstrate enhanced memory performance for own-age faces, we suggest that detailed recollection of study-episode information, as reflected in the ERP old-new effect, may be a necessary prerequisite for the own-age bias.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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