August 2012
Volume 12, Issue 9
Free
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2012
The effect of orientation and stimulus duration on older and younger adults' ability to identify facial expressions.
Author Affiliations
  • Sarah E. Creighton
    Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, McMaster University
  • Allison B. Sekuler
    Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, McMaster University\nCentre for Vision Research, York University
  • Patrick J. Bennett
    Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, McMaster University\nCentre for Vision Research, York University
Journal of Vision August 2012, Vol.12, 964. doi:10.1167/12.9.964
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      Sarah E. Creighton, Allison B. Sekuler, Patrick J. Bennett; The effect of orientation and stimulus duration on older and younger adults' ability to identify facial expressions.. Journal of Vision 2012;12(9):964. doi: 10.1167/12.9.964.

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Abstract

In younger adults, certain facial expressions (e.g. happiness) are recognized easily, while others (e.g. fear and surprise) are not (Palermo and Coltheart, 2004). Previous results suggest that older adults show overall recognition deficits and qualitatively different patterns in the particular expressions that are most difficult to identify (Ruffman et al., 2008). In the current study, 23 younger (18-33 years old) and 23 older (60-80 years old) adults performed a 4AFC (angry, fearful, happy, sad) facial expression categorization task that varied face orientation (upright/inverted) and stimulus duration (100, 500, 1000ms). For both groups, happiness was the easiest expression to identify, and fear and sadness were the most difficult and most frequently confused. For upright faces, there was no age difference in response accuracy but response latency was longer in older subjects. For inverted faces, older adults showed lower accuracy and longer latencies for expressions of anger, fear, and sadness. Recognition of inverted happy faces was spared in older adults for accuracy, but not response latency. At all stimulus durations, older subjects were less accurate than younger subjects for angry and sad faces, but accuracy for happy faces was unaffected by age. The pattern of relative difficulties was the same in each age group at both orientations and all stimulus durations. Furthermore, there was no age difference in the pattern of response confusions. However, when subjects were asked to classify neutral faces, younger subjects were more likely to respond angry or fearful than sad, while the order was reversed for older subjects. Our results suggest that, in general, older individuals process expressive faces in a qualitatively similar way to their younger counterparts, but are less efficient at extracting the diagnostic information. Age-related deficits observed in previous studies may reflect a general decrease in processing efficiency, rather than facial expression identification per se.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2012

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