Influences of age on emotional reactivity during picture processing

Darin P. Smith, Charles H. Hillman, Aaron R. Duley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We compared emotional reactivity to affective pictures for 32 older (60-71 years) and 34 younger (18-23 years) adults. We collected the startle-blink reflex, N1 and P3 components of the probe-evoked event-related brain potential, corrugator electromyogram, heart rate, and self-report measures of pleasure and arousal. Self-report findings indicated that older, compared with younger, adults reported greater overall pleasure and arousal. Older adults also exhibited decreased N1 and P3 amplitude, corrugator activity, and heart rate deceleration compared with younger adults. The startle-blink reflex revealed that older adults exhibited increased startle-blink magnitude compared with younger adults during unpleasant pictures, with no age differences observed for pleasant and neutral contents. These age differences suggest that older adults have differential reactivity to affective picture viewing, and they indicate that age-related changes in emotion are not unitary across response systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)P49-P56
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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