Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 109–122 | Cite as

Age-related decline in emotional perspective-taking: Its effect on the late positive potential

  • Carina FernandesEmail author
  • A. R. Gonçalves
  • R. Pasion
  • F. Ferreira-Santos
  • F. Barbosa
  • I. P. Martins
  • J. Marques-Teixeira


Aging is associated with changes in cognitive and affective functioning, which likely shape older adults’ social cognition. As the neural and psychological mechanisms underlying age differences in social abilities remain poorly understood, the present study aims to extend the research in this field. To this purpose, younger (n = 30; Mage = 26.6), middle-aged (n = 30; Mage = 48.4), and older adults (n = 29; Mage = 64.5) performed a task designed to assess affective perspective-taking, during an EEG recording. In this task, participants decided whether a target facial expression of emotion (FEE) was congruent or incongruent with that of a masked intervener of a previous scenario, which portrayed a neutral or an emotional scene. Older adults showed worse performance in comparison to the other groups. Regarding electrophysiological results, while younger and middle-aged adults showed higher late positive potentials (LPPs) after FEEs congruent with previous scenarios than after incongruent FEEs, older adults had similar amplitudes after both. This insensitivity of older adults’ LPPs in differentiating congruent from incongruent emotional context-target FEE may be related to their difficulty in generating information about others’ inner states and using that information in social interactions.


Aging Emotional processing Perspective-taking N170 Late positive potentials 



This research was supported by a Grant from the BIAL Foundation. Carina Fernandes was supported by a doctoral fellowship from the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (SFRH/BD/112101/2015). We thank Brigit Derntl for her permission to use the stimuli displayed as scenarios in the emotional perspective-taking task, and Nim Tottenham for her permission to use the face stimuli displayed as target FEE. Development of the MacBrain Face Stimulus Set was overseen by Nim Tottenham and supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Early Experience and Brain Development. Please contact Dr. Nim Tottenham for more information concerning the stimulus set (; We also thank Programa de Estudos Universitários para Seniores and Associação de Aposentados Pensionistas e Reformados for their help in participant recruitment.

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© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Neuropsychophysiology, Faculty of Psychology and Education SciencesUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal
  2. 2.Faculty of MedicineUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal
  3. 3.Language Research Laboratory, Institute of Molecular Medicine, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of LisbonLisboaPortugal

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