Friend or Foe? Age Moderates Time-Course Specific Responsiveness to Trustworthiness Cues

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There is growing evidence of a greater focus on positive relative to negative information in older adulthood. Up to date, the age-related positivity effect in affective processing has been only investigated with respect to explicit emotional cues. Thus, the purpose of this study was to investigate whether similar age-related differences would be observed in reference to subtler cues, such as emotionally suggestive structural facial characteristics.


We used a gaze following paradigm and investigated the temporal dynamics of responding to facial trustworthiness cues in younger and older adults.


Both age groups provided similar trustworthiness evaluations. Nonetheless, under responding conditions that allowed for volitional modulatory influences (600ms), older (but not younger) adults with superior cognitive resources showed more gaze following in response to trustworthy than to untrustworthy looking faces.


This study provided initial evidence that the age-related positivity effect in affective processing extends to subtle emotional cues, generally interpreted as being reflective of socially relevant personality traits. Implications for aging theories of motivated cognition and developmental changes in reliance on superficial affective cues are discussed.

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