Social context modulates face recognition in young and intermediate age adults

Felisberti, Fatima M., Cox, Rebecca, Wanli, Jana and Dover, Cassandra (2013) Social context modulates face recognition in young and intermediate age adults. In: Experimental Psychology Society London Meeting; 03 - 04 Jan 2013, London, U.K.. (Unpublished)


The efficient recognition of potential cooperators and cheaters is at the core of social exchanges. We have shown that face recognition can be modulated by the social context (Felisberti & Pavey, 2010, PLOS One), but possible effects related to aging are not known. In this study behavioural descriptors were tagged to faces during encoding. The three descriptors in a scenario involving money exchanges contained no moral values (cheating, cooperation or neutral behaviours were implicit). Participants (N= 250) had to answer if they had seen the faces before (‗yes/no‘ task). Results from three experiments showed an increase in false alarm rates and reaction time with age. Hit rates and sensitivity to faces of cooperators were higher than for cheaters in both young (18-29 yo) and intermediate age adults (30-59 yo) adults, but not in seniors (>60 yo), while reaction time was faster for cooperators than cheaters in all age groups. There was an age-invariant contextual bias towards faces of cooperators, while the recognition of cheaters improved with age. This effect might be due to higher exposure to cheaters in the longer lifespan of seniors and/or their use of a slower and more effortful decision processing.

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