Age Deficits in Facial Affect Recognition: The Influence of Dynamic Cues

Sarah A. Grainger, Julie D. Henry, Louise H. Phillips, Eric J. Vanman, Roy Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)
23 Downloads (Pure)


OBJECTIVES: Older adults have difficulties in identifying most facial expressions of emotion. However, most aging studies have presented static photographs of intense expressions, whereas in everyday experience people see emotions that develop and change. The present study was designed to assess whether age-related difficulties with emotion recognition are reduced when more ecologically valid (i.e., dynamic) stimuli are used.

METHOD: We examined the effect of stimuli format (i.e., static vs. dynamic) on facial affect recognition in two separate studies that included independent samples and distinct stimuli sets. In addition to younger and older participants, a middle-aged group was included in Study 1 and eye gaze patterns were assessed in Study 2.

RESULTS: Across both studies, older adults performed worse than younger adults on measures of facial affect recognition. In Study 1, older and-middle aged adults benefited from dynamic stimuli, but only when the emotional displays were subtle. Younger adults gazed more at the eye region of the face relative to older adults (Study 2), but dynamic presentation increased attention towards the eye region for younger adults only.

DISCUSSION: Together, these studies provide important and novel insights into the specific circumstances in which older adults may be expected to experience difficulties in perceiving facial emotions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)622-632
Number of pages11
JournalJournals of Gerontology. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number4
Early online date3 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the Australian Research Council, Australia (DP150100302) and the Leverhulme Trust, U.K. (F/00152/W).


  • attentional engagement
  • ecological validity
  • emotion recognition


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