The ability to represent emotions is an important capacity for the understanding of discourse. In the current literature, it is unclear whether older adults represent emotion information in the course of language processing, in particular as it relates to developing an adequate mental model of characters in narratives. We addressed this issue in two studies, one assessing emotion activation at the word level and the other at the mental model level. In the first experiment, subjects performed a lexical decision task in which words were drawn from both logic- and emotion-based categories. For both category types, priming was evident for young and old. In the second experiment, subjects read passages with emotion information that was consistent or inconsistent with the implied emotional tone. Both age groups showed an increase in reading time in response to inconsistent emotion information, indicating that the protagonist's emotional state was represented while reading. Results of these studies generally suggest age preservation in the activation of emotion information in language processing.
- discourse understanding
- lexical decision
- reading time
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology