I never really thought about it before, but I guess "sad" and "angry" are emotions stereotypically applied to the elderly. Get off my lawn and all that. Dropping it into the ocean at the end. No, you can't have equal rights because the '50s. Et al. But a new study suggests that older people don't actually exhibit higher levels of sadness and anger than any other segment of the population—our biased brains just assume that they do. Because of wrinkles.
Previous studies have indicated that young people have a hard time accurately identifying emotions in older faces. Basically, when we look at a strong emotion, we see a mixed emotion. So we'll be like, "Ummmmm...so you're giving me Drake in a tuna sandwich factory meets the paralyzing grief of 1000 Victor-Garbers-after-he-realizes-the-Titanic-is-fucked?" And the older person is all, "What? Naw, bro, I was just thinking about cereal." We read unequivocal emotions of anger, sadness, happiness, or love of cereal as ambiguous emotions.
On top of that, new research shows that when presented with older faces making neutral expressions, participants actually applied intense emotions that were not present.
People in the study rated the faces of older adults as much more sad and angry than faces of younger adults, despite the fact that all the faces had neutral expressions, according to the researchers.
Wrinkles on the face can cause the mouth to drop and the forehead to crinkle, features that others may misperceive as anger or sadness, said study researcher Carlos Garrido, a doctoral student in social psychology at Penn State University.
The findings may affect how older adults are treated in medical settings, Garrido said. For instance, a doctor may misperceive an older patient to be in more pain than he really is, because of his facial wrinkles, he said.
So, essentially, nobody has any idea what's going on in older people's faces ever. When they're happy we think they're neutral and when they're neutral we think they're distraught. So instead of making assumptions, maybe what we should do is just listen to what older people actually say? When they talk? Just a thought.