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Journal Articles Frontiers in Psychology Year : 2017

Gaze Behavior Consistency among Older and Younger Adults When Looking at Emotional Faces

Abstract

The identification of non-verbal emotional signals, and especially of facial expressions, is essential for successful social communication among humans. Previous research has reported an age-related decline in facial emotion identification, and argued for socio-emotional or aging-brain model explanations. However, more perceptual differences in the gaze strategies that accompany facial emotional processing with advancing age have been under-explored yet. In this study, 22 young (22.2 years) and 22 older (70.4 years) adults were instructed to look at basic facial expressions while their gaze movements were recorded by an eye-tracker. Participants were then asked to identify each emotion, and the unbiased hit rate was applied as performance measure. Gaze data were first analyzed using traditional measures of fixations over two preferential regions of the face (upper and lower areas) for each emotion. Then, to better capture core gaze changes with advancing age, spatio-temporal gaze behaviors were deeper examined using data-driven analysis (dimension reduction, clustering). Results first confirmed that older adults performed worse than younger adults at identifying facial expressions, except for " joy " and " disgust, " and this was accompanied by a gaze preference toward the lower-face. Interestingly, this phenomenon was maintained during the whole time course of stimulus presentation. More importantly, trials corresponding to older adults were more tightly clustered, suggesting that the gaze behavior patterns of older adults are more consistent than those of younger adults. This study demonstrates that, confronted to emotional faces, younger and older adults do not prioritize or ignore the same facial areas. Older adults mainly adopted a focused-gaze strategy, consisting in focusing only on the lower part of the face throughout the whole stimuli display time. This consistency may constitute a robust and distinctive " social signature " of emotional identification in aging. Younger adults, however, were more dispersed in terms of gaze behavior and used a more exploratory-gaze strategy, consisting in repeatedly visiting both facial areas.
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hal-01518089 , version 1 (04-05-2017)

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Laurence Chaby, Isabelle Hupont, Marie Avril, Viviane Luherne-Du Boullay, Mohamed Chetouani. Gaze Behavior Consistency among Older and Younger Adults When Looking at Emotional Faces. Frontiers in Psychology, 2017, 8, pp.548 ⟨10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00548⟩. ⟨hal-01518089⟩
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