Assessment of perception of morphed facial expressions using the Emotion Recognition Task: normative data from healthy participants aged 8-75

J Neuropsychol. 2014 Mar;8(1):75-93. doi: 10.1111/jnp.12009. Epub 2013 Feb 14.


The ability to recognize and label emotional facial expressions is an important aspect of social cognition. However, existing paradigms to examine this ability present only static facial expressions, suffer from ceiling effects or have limited or no norms. A computerized test, the Emotion Recognition Task (ERT), was developed to overcome these difficulties. In this study, we examined the effects of age, sex, and intellectual ability on emotion perception using the ERT. In this test, emotional facial expressions are presented as morphs gradually expressing one of the six basic emotions from neutral to four levels of intensity (40%, 60%, 80%, and 100%). The task was administered in 373 healthy participants aged 8-75. In children aged 8-17, only small developmental effects were found for the emotions anger and happiness, in contrast to adults who showed age-related decline on anger, fear, happiness, and sadness. Sex differences were present predominantly in the adult participants. IQ only minimally affected the perception of disgust in the children, while years of education were correlated with all emotions but surprise and disgust in the adult participants. A regression-based approach was adopted to present age- and education- or IQ-adjusted normative data for use in clinical practice. Previous studies using the ERT have demonstrated selective impairments on specific emotions in a variety of psychiatric, neurologic, or neurodegenerative patient groups, making the ERT a valuable addition to existing paradigms for the assessment of emotion perception.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Child
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Recognition, Psychology*
  • Reference Values
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Young Adult