We tested how aging affects the integration of visual information from faces. Three groups of participants aged 20-30, 40-50, and 60-70 performed a divided attention task in which they had to detect the presence of a target facial identity or a target facial expression. Three target stimuli were used: (1) with the target identity but not the target expression, (2) with the target expression but not the target identity, and (3) with both the target identity and target expression (the redundant target condition). On nontarget trials the faces contained neither the target identity nor expression. All groups were faster in responding to a face containing both the target identity and emotion compared to faces containing either single target. Furthermore the redundancy gains for combined targets exceeded performance limits predicted by the independent processing of facial identity and emotion. These results are held across the age range. The results suggest that there is interactive processing of facial identity and emotion which is independent of the effects of cognitive aging. Older participants demonstrated reliably larger size of the redundancy gains compared to the young group that reflect a greater experience with faces. Alternative explanations are discussed.
- Journal Article