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Older adults' decoding of emotions: age-related differences in interpreting dynamic emotional displays and the well-preserved ability to recognize happiness

Moraitou, Despina, Papantoniou, Georgia, Gkinopoulos, Theofilos and Nigritinou, Magdalini (2013) Older adults' decoding of emotions: age-related differences in interpreting dynamic emotional displays and the well-preserved ability to recognize happiness Psychogeriatrics, 13 (3). pp. 139-147.

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Although the ability to recognize emotions through bodily and facial muscular movements is vital to everyday life, numerous studies have found that older adults are less adept at identifying emotions, compared to younger ones. The message gleaned from research has been rather a message for greater decline for specific negative emotions than positive ones. At the same time, it refers to methodological issues raised with regard to different modalities in which emotion decoding is measured. The main aim of the present study was to identify the pattern of age differences in the ability to decode basic emotions from naturalistic visual emotional displays.


The sample comprised a total of 208 adults from Greece, aged from 18 to 86 years. Participants were examined using the Emotion Evaluation Test (EET) which is the first part of a broader audiovisual tool called “The Awareness of Social Inference Test”. The EET was designed to examine a person’s ability to identify six emotions and discriminate these from neutral expressions, when they are portrayed dynamically by professional actors.


The findings indicated that decoding of basic emotions is taking place along the broad affective dimension of “uncertainty”, and a basic step in emotion decoding is to recognize whether information presented is emotional or not. Age was found to negatively affect the ability to decode the basic negatively-valenced emotions and pleasant surprise as well. Happiness decoding is the only ability that was found well-preserved with advancing age.


The main conclusion drawn from the study is that the pattern in which emotion decoding from visual cues is affected by normal aging is formulated according to the rate of uncertainty that either is related to decoding difficulties or is inherent to a specific emotion.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences > School of Psychology
Authors :
Date : 17 September 2013
Identification Number : 10.1111/psyg.12016
Copyright Disclaimer : © 2013 The Authors. Psychogeriatrics © 2013 Japanese Psychogeriatric Society
Uncontrolled Keywords : Affect optimization; Ageing; Basic emotions; Motivational shifts; Pattern of age differences in emotion decoding; Uncertainty
Depositing User : Clive Harris
Date Deposited : 02 Mar 2018 11:23
Last Modified : 14 Mar 2018 13:10

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