The use of body movements and gestures as cues to emotions in younger and older adults

Joann Montepare, Elissa Koff, Deborah Zaitchik, Marilyn Albert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


Eighty-two younger and older adults participated in a two-part study of the decoding of emotion through body movements and gestures. In the first part, younger and older adults identified emotions depicted in brief videotaped displays of young adult actors portraying emotional situations. In each display, the actors were silent and their faces were electronically blurred in order to isolate the body cues to emotion. Although both groups made accurate emotion identifications well above chance levels, older adults made more overall errors, and this was especially true for negative emotions. Moreover, their errors were more likely to reflect the misidentification of emotional displays as neutral in content. In the second part, younger and older adults rated the videotaped displays using scales reflecting several movement dimensions (e.g., form, tempo, force, and movement). The ratings of both age groups were in high agreement and provided reliable information about particular body cues to emotion. The errors made by older adults were linked to reactions to exaggerated or ambiguous body cues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-152
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Nonverbal Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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