With age comes representational wisdom in social signals

Nicola van Rijsbergen, Katarzyna Jaworska, Guillaume A. Rousselet, Philippe G. Schyns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


In an increasingly aging society, age has become a foundational dimension of social grouping broadly targeted by advertising and governmental policies. However, perception of old age induces mainly strong negative social biases. To characterize their cognitive and perceptual foundations, we modeled the mental representations of faces associated with three age groups (young age, middle age, and old age), in younger and older participants. We then validated the accuracy of each mental representation of age with independent validators. Using statistical image processing, we identified the features of mental representations that predict perceived age. Here, we show that whereas younger people mentally dichotomize aging into two groups, themselves (younger) and others (older), older participants faithfully represent the features of young age, middle age, and old age, with richer representations of all considered ages. Our results demonstrate that, contrary to popular public belief, older minds depict socially relevant information more accurately than their younger counterparts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2792-2796
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent biology : CB
Issue number23
Early online date13 Nov 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging/psychology
  • Face
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Middle Aged
  • Nontherapeutic Human Experimentation
  • Perception/physiology
  • Psychological Tests
  • Young Adult


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