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Effects of Age on Detection of Emotional Information
Christina M. Leclerc and Elizabeth A. Kensinger
Boston College
This research was supported by National Science Foundation Grant BCS 0542694
awarded to Elizabeth A. Kensinger.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Christina M. Leclerc,
Department of Psychology,Boston College, McGuinn Hall, Room 512, 140 Commonwealth
Avenue, Chestnut Christina M. Leclerc and Elizabeth A. Kensinger, Department of Psychology,
Boston College.
Author Note
arch beth ndence sychology, ut Hill, MA 02467. Email:
Writing the abstract, 2.04
Establishing a title, 2.01; Preparing the
manuscript for submission, 8.03
Formatting the author name(byline) and
institutional affiliation, 2.02, Table 2.1
Double-spaced manuscript,
Times Roman typeface,
1-inch margins, 8.03
Elements of an author note, 2.03
Age differences were examined in affective processing, in the context of a visual search task.
Young and older adults were faster to detect high arousal images compared with low arousaland
neutral items. Younger adults were faster to detect positive high arousal targets compared with
other categories. In contrast, older adults exhibited an overall detection advantage for emotional
images compared with neutral images. Together, these findings suggest that older adults do not
display valence-based effects on affective processing at relatively automatic stages.
Keywords: aging,attention, information processing, emotion, visual search
Figure 2.1. Sample One-Experiment Paper (The numbers refer to numbered
sections in the Publication Manual.)
Paper adapted from “Effects of Age on Detection of Emotional Information,” by C. M. Leclerc and E. A. Kensinger,
2008, Psychology and Aging, 23, pp. 209–215. Copyright 2008 by the American Psychological Association.
Effects of Age on Detection of Emotional Information
Frequently, people encounter situations in their environment in which it is impossible to
attend to all available stimuli. It is therefore of great importance for one’s attentional processes to
select only the most salient information in the environment to which one should attend. Previous
research has suggestedthat emotional information is privy to attentional selection in young
adults (e.g.,
& Tapia, 2004; Nummenmaa, Hyona, & Calvo, 2006), an obvious service to evolutionary drives
to approach rewarding situations and to avoid threat and danger (Davis & Whalen, 2001; Dolan
& Vuilleumier, 2003; Lang, Bradley, & Cuthbert, 1997; LeDoux, 1995).
For example, Ohman, Flykt, and Esteves (2001)presentedparticipants with 3 × 3 visual
arrays with images representing four categories (snakes, spiders, flowers, mushrooms). In half
the arrays, all nine images were from the same category, whereas in the remaining half of the
arrays, eight images were from one category and one image was from a different category (e.g.,
eight flowers and one snake). Participants were asked to indicate whether the matrixincluded a
discrepant stimulus. Results indicated that fear-relevant images were more quickly detected than
fear-irrelevant items, and larger search facilitation effects were observed for participants who
were fearful of the stimuli. A similar pattern of results has been observed when examining the
attention-grabbing nature of negative facial expressions, with threatening faces (includingthose
not attended to) identified more quickly than positive or neutral faces (Eastwood, Smilek,&
Merikle, 2001; Hansen & Hansen, 1988). The enhanced detection of emotional information is
not limited to threatening stimuli; there is evidence that any high-arousing stimulus can be
detected rapidly, regardless of whether it is positively or negatively valenced (Anderson, 2005;
Anderson, 2005;...
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