Assessing differences in emotion recognition and short term memory for young old, middle old and older adults

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Hicks, R., Alexander, V., & Bahr, M. (2012). Assessing differences in emotion recognition and short term memory for young old, middle old and older adults. Paper presented at the Experimental Psychology Society Hull Meeting, 11-13 April, 2012, Hull, UK

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© Copyright The Authors, 2012


Recently, age related cognitive decline has become an area of interest due to the maturing population. Research has identified that emotion recognition is likely to be affected by age related decline. It has also been suggested that memory subsystems may be responsible for decline. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to assess whether age related decline in emotion recognition could be accounted for by short term memory or visual memory. This study also expands on the aging literature as there is a paucity of research that compares aging across three age cohorts, as well as using relatively “young” participants. We examined 62 individuals using the following: a digit span task to assess generalized short term memory, a memory for faces task to assess visual memory, and a faces task consisting of eight different emotions (neutral, happy, sad, angry, surprise, contempt, disgust, fearful). These tasks were a part of a computerised test that was specifically designed for the purposes of the current research. Participants ranged from 18 to 84 years of age; these were divided into young adults (18-49), middle old adults (50-64) and older adults (50-64). Anger and surprise were found to decrease across the three groups, suggesting the possibility of age related decline. Short term memory was also found to decline; however, visual memory remained intact. This suggests that short term memory may contribute to decline in emotion recognition; however, visual mechanisms cannot be completely ruled out. This study provides an insight into emotion recognition and the aging process.

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