Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
With advancing age, processing resources are shifted away from negative emotional stimuli and toward positive ones. Here, we explored this 'positivity effect' using event-related potentials (ERPs). Participants identified the presence or absence of a visual probe that appeared over photographs of emotional faces. The ERPs elicited by the onsets of angry, sad, happy and neutral faces were recorded. We examined the frontocentral emotional positivity (FcEP), which is defined as a positive deflection in the waveforms elicited by emotional expressions relative to neutral faces early on in the time course of the ERP. The FcEP is thought to reflect enhanced early processing of emotional expressions. The results show that within the first 130 ms young adults show an FcEP to negative emotional expressions, whereas older adults show an FcEP to positive emotional expressions. These findings provide additional evidence that the age-related positivity effect in emotion processing can be traced to automatic processes that are evident very early in the processing of emotional facial expressions.
Hilimire, Matthew R.; Mienaltowski, Andrew; Mienaltowski, Andrew; and Blanchard-Fields, Fredda, Age-related differences in event-related potentials for early visual processing of emotional faces (2014).