Smiling and sad wrinkles: Age-related changes in the face and the perception of emotions and intentions

Ursula Hess, Reginald B. Adams, Annie Simard, Michael T. Stevenson, Robert E. Kleck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


There is a common belief that wrinkles in the aging face reflect frequently experienced emotions and hence resemble these affective displays. This implies that the wrinkles and folds in elderly faces interfere with the perception of other emotions currently experienced by the elderly as well as with the inferences perceivers draw from these expressions. Whereas there is ample research on the impact of aging on emotion recognition, almost no research has focused on how emotions expressed by the elderly are perceived by others. The present research addresses this latter question. Young participants rated the emotion expressions and behavioral intentions of old and young faces displaying identical expressions. The findings suggest that emotions shown on older faces have reduced signal clarity and may consequently have less impact on inferences regarding behavioral intentions. Both effects can be expected to have negative consequences for rapport achieved in everyday interactions involving the elderly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1377-1380
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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