Visual scanning patterns and executive function in relation to facial emotion recognition in aging
Circelli, K. S.
Clark, U. S.
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Citation (published version)KS Circelli, US Clark, A Cronin-Golomb. 2013. "Visual scanning patterns and executive function in relation to facial emotion recognition in aging." Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp. 148 - 173. https://doi.org/10.1080/13825585.2012.675427
OBJECTIVE: The ability to perceive facial emotion varies with age. Relative to younger adults (YA), older adults (OA) are less accurate at identifying fear, anger, and sadness, and more accurate at identifying disgust. Because different emotions are conveyed by different parts of the face, changes in visual scanning patterns may account for age-related variability. We investigated the relation between scanning patterns and recognition of facial emotions. Additionally, as frontal-lobe changes with age may affect scanning patterns and emotion recognition, we examined correlations between scanning parameters and performance on executive function tests. METHODS: We recorded eye movements from 16 OA (mean age 68.9) and 16 YA (mean age 19.2) while they categorized facial expressions and non-face control images (landscapes), and administered standard tests of executive function. RESULTS: OA were less accurate than YA at identifying fear (p < .05, r = .44) and more accurate at identifying disgust (p < .05, r = .39). OA fixated less than YA on the top half of the face for disgust, fearful, happy, neutral, and sad faces (p values < .05, r values ≥ .38), whereas there was no group difference for landscapes. For OA, executive function was correlated with recognition of sad expressions and with scanning patterns for fearful, sad, and surprised expressions. CONCLUSION: We report significant age-related differences in visual scanning that are specific to faces. The observed relation between scanning patterns and executive function supports the hypothesis that frontal-lobe changes with age may underlie some changes in emotion recognition.
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