Compared to younger adults, older people are less adept at reading emotion in their spouse’s face. But when their spouse isn’t present, older and younger adults are equally able to discern their significant others’ moods.
These findings, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggest that older adults retain the ability to make accurate judgments about others’ emotions using their acquired knowledge, but not sensory cues.
“When judging others’ emotions in real life, people do not exclusively rely on emotional expressions,” says lead researcher Antje Rauers of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Germany. “Instead, they use additional information, such as accumulated knowledge about a given situation and a particular person.”
To investigate how these two processes vary with age, Rauers and colleagues Elisabeth Blanke and Michaela Riediger recruited 100 couples, some of whom were between the ages of 20 and 30 and some of whom were between the ages of 69 and 80. When they came to the lab, Rauer and colleagues first showed various faces to the participants, asking them to identify particular emotions.
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