The Effect of Auditory and Contextual Emotional Cues on the Ability to Recognise Facial Expressions of Emotion in Healthy Adult Aging
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Previous emotion recognition studies have suggested an age-related decline in the recognition of facial expressions of emotion. However, these studies often lack ecological validity and do not consider the multiple interacting sensory stimuli that are critical to realworld emotion recognition. In the current study, emotion recognition in everyday life was considered to comprise of the interaction between facial expressions, accompanied by an auditory expression and embedded in a situational context. Initially a set of context stimuli containing visual scenes considered to represent 5 of the basic emotions (e.g. Anger, Disgust, Fear, Happiness and Sadness) were compiled, tested, and used to comprise the context stimuli used in the main experiment. The study then assessed emotion recognition in healthy young (N= 21) and older (N = 19) adults across 6 emotion recognition tasks, assessing how emotion recognition performance differs when emotional stimuli are presented uni-modally, cross-modally, within-modally and simultaneously cross and within modally (e.g. Face, Auditory, Context, Face-Auditory, Face-Context and Face-Auditory-Context). Age differences were observed in the uni-modal face and uni-modal auditory emotion recognition conditions. However these age differences were eliminated when perception was enhanced, through the incorporation of congruent cross-modal auditory and withinmodal context emotional cues when identifying facial expressions. The greatest benefit to accurate perception in both groups was found when emotional faces were accompanied by both congruent auditory and context stimuli simultaneously. This suggests that emotion recognition difficulties in older adults may only be evident when sufficient sensory cues are not available and therefore more ecologically valid tasks that enhance the sensory experience may translate better to emotion recognition performance that would be expected in everyday life. These findings are discussed in relation to neuropsychological and sociocognitive perspectives of emotion recognition in aging.