Adult aging and the perceived intensity of emotions in faces and stories

Louise Helen Phillips, Royston Darrell Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


Background and aims: Experience of emotions changes with age: older adults report fewer intense negative emotional experiences, and are less accurate in labelling facial expressions of some negative emotions. However, there is little empirical evidence as to the effect of age on perception of intensity of emotions. This study aims to investigate whether younger and older adults differ in their ratings of the intensity of others' emotions as presented in photographs of faces and descriptions in text. Methods: Age effects on intensity ratings of emotions (happiness, fear, anger, sadness) from photographs of facial expressions and verbal descriptions of emotions in text were investigated in 91 healthy adult participants. Relationships of these intensity ratings with measures of cognitive ability and current mood were also examined. Results: Older participants perceived lower levels of emotional intensity in sad and happy faces. Compared with the older group, younger adults perceived neutral faces as showing high anger levels. Younger adults also rated protagonists in stories as experiencing high levels of fear. Most of the age differences could be statistically explained in terms of anxiety, depression, and intelligence test scores. Conclusions: Older adults rate some aspects of emotions portrayed in facial expressions and written text as less intense. This may partly reflect better emotional adjustment with age, as reflected in lower levels of anxiety and depression. (C) 2004, Editrice Kurtis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-199
Number of pages9
JournalAging Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • aging
  • cognition
  • emotion
  • emotional dysfunction
  • facial expressions of emotion
  • CUES
  • AGE


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