Presentation on theme: "Adult age differences in the perception of emotions from written vignettes Isabel Huebner, Louise Phillips & Roy Allen. School of Psychology, University."— Presentation transcript:
Adult age differences in the perception of emotions from written vignettes Isabel Huebner, Louise Phillips & Roy Allen. School of Psychology, University of Aberdeen. Funded by a BPS Undergraduate Research Assistantship grant to Isabel Huebner. BACKGROUND: AGE DIFFERENCES IN PERCEPTION OF EMOTIONS Previous studies have suggested that there may be age differences in understanding feelings from written stories with older adults showing a declining ability to identify emotional cues. However, the stories used previously have varied both in complexity, and the nature and intensity of emotions portrayed. In this pilot project, age differences in the perceived nature and intensity of primary and secondary emotions, both positive and negative, were investigated in a wide range of written vignettes. METHOD: Participants: ten young (aged 20-40), ten middle-aged (aged 40-60) and ten older (aged 60-80) adults. Task: 26 stories describing emotions, used in previous neuropsychological studies, were presented (see examples below). Participants were asked to indicate the emotions that the protagonist was feeling, in terms of the presence or absence of six primary emotions (positive = happiness, excitement and pleasure; negative = anger, fear and sadness) and six secondary emotions (positive = affection and hope, negative = disappointment, embarrassment, guilt and resentment). Where an emotion was present, participants were asked to rate the intensity of the emotion on a 9-point rating scale. For analysis, emotions were combined across all 26 stories Example rated as high in Secondary Emotions Samantha is having a party to celebrate her birthday at the weekend. Her next-door neighbour, who Samantha does not like, has complained in the past when Samantha has played loud music, so Samantha decides to warn her about the party. When she sees her neighbour Samantha says "I'm glad I saw you, I just wanted to let you know that I'm having a party on Saturday night, it should finish quite early." Her neighbour replies "Oh thank you so much, I would love to come". Indicate the emotion(s) that Samantha was feeling. Example rated as high in Primary Emotions Sylvia had never done anything really exciting in her life. One day she decided she had to do something exciting so she enrolled in a class for parachuting. Today is the day that she will make her first jump. She and her class are seated in the plane as it reaches the right altitude for parachute jumping. The instructor calls her name. It is her turn to jump. She refuses to leave her seat. Indicate the emotion(s) that Sylvia was feeling. RESULTS: Figures showing significant age differences in attribution of emotions to vignettes are shown below. DISCUSSION: In this small pilot sample, few age differences in the attribution of emotions to protagonists in stories were found. Younger adults were more likely to attribute some primary and secondary emotions to the stories, and this applied to both some positive (happiness, affection) and negative (fear) aspects of emotion. The finding that older adults attributed a higher intensity of embarrassment to stories compared to young was surprising and might be indicative of age differences in social sensitivity. The results also enabled classification of each story as presenting mainly primary or secondary, and positive or negative emotions. This will be extremely useful to select the most appropriate stories for use in a future study in which a larger sample of adults, varying in age, will interpret the emotions and mental states of protagonists in the stories.