Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Older adults gauge their partner's feelings through knowing, not seeing

Date:
September 10, 2013
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Compared to younger adults, older people are less adept at reading emotion in their spouse's face. But when their spouse isn't present, older and younger adults are equally able to discern their significant others' moods, according to new research.

Compared to younger adults, older people are less adept at reading emotion in their spouse's face. But when their spouse isn't present, older and younger adults are equally able to discern their significant others' moods.

Related Articles


These findings, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggest that older adults retain the ability to make accurate judgments about others' emotions using their acquired knowledge, but not sensory cues.

"When judging others' emotions in real life, people do not exclusively rely on emotional expressions," says lead researcher Antje Rauers of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Germany. "Instead, they use additional information, such as accumulated knowledge about a given situation and a particular person."

To investigate how these two processes vary with age, Rauers and colleagues Elisabeth Blanke and Michaela Riediger recruited 100 couples, some of whom were between the ages of 20 and 30 and some of whom were between the ages of 69 and 80. When they came to the lab, Rauer and colleagues first showed various faces to the participants, asking them to identify particular emotions.

"We started by replicating past research, showing that older adults are typically worse than younger adults at interpreting emotions through facial expressions," Rauers explains.

Then the researchers took the study outside the lab, asking participants to record their own emotions and the emotions of their partners six times a day for two weeks using a cell phone.

When the participant's partner was nearby, the participant could use his or her partner's facial expressions as an indicator of their emotions. But it was those moments when the partner was absent, which occur frequently in everyday life, that the researchers were particularly interested in.

Even though partners were sometimes in different places, they recorded their emotions at the exact same times throughout the day. This way, the researchers could tell if one partner was accurately estimating how the other partner felt at that particular moment.

The data revealed that older adults were not as adept as younger adults at reading the expressions in their partner's face -- when both partners were present, the older adults estimated consistently worse than their younger counterparts. These findings confirmed the results from the expression recognition task completed in the lab.

But the age differences disappeared when the researchers looked at only those moments when the partners were separated. In these cases, both older adults and younger adults were equally good at estimating how their partner was feeling at a given moment.

These findings suggest that some cognitive processes associated with understanding and empathizing with one's partner remain stable as we age.

"Reading emotional expressions may become more difficult with age, but using one's knowledge about a familiar person remains a reliable strategy throughout adulthood," Rauers concludes.

"This is really good news, given that the overwhelming majority of research findings testifies an age-related decline in many competencies," says Rauers. "Our data suggest that knowing your loved ones well is an important resource that stays available throughout life."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. A. Rauers, E. Blanke, M. Riediger. Everyday Empathic Accuracy in Younger and Older Couples: Do You Need to See Your Partner to Know His or Her Feelings? Psychological Science, 2013; DOI: 10.1177/0956797613490747

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Older adults gauge their partner's feelings through knowing, not seeing." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130910113011.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2013, September 10). Older adults gauge their partner's feelings through knowing, not seeing. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130910113011.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Older adults gauge their partner's feelings through knowing, not seeing." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130910113011.htm (accessed December 17, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

UN: Up to One Million Facing Hunger in Ebola-Hit Countries

UN: Up to One Million Facing Hunger in Ebola-Hit Countries

AFP (Dec. 17, 2014) Border closures, quarantines and crop losses in West African nations battling the Ebola virus could lead to as many as one million people going hungry, UN food agencies said on Wednesday. Duration: 00:52 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Can fat disappear into thin air? New research finds that during weight loss, over 80 percent of a person's fat molecules escape through the lungs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Your Boss Should Let You Sleep In

Why Your Boss Should Let You Sleep In

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) According to research out of the University of Pennsylvania, waking up for work is the biggest factor that causes Americans to lose sleep. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flu Outbreak Closing Schools in Ohio

Flu Outbreak Closing Schools in Ohio

AP (Dec. 17, 2014) A wave of flu illnesses has forced some Ohio schools to shut down over the past week. State officials confirmed one pediatric flu-related death, a 15-year-old girl in southern Ohio. (Dec. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins