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Slide Slam Q3

Fight, Flight or Freeze? Emotional Stimuli and Word Retrieval in Aging Adults

Slide Slam Session Q, Friday, October 8, 2021, 12:00 - 2:30 pm PDT Log In to set Timezone

Deena Schwen Blackett1, Stacy M. Harnish2, Shari R. Speer2, Joan C. Borod3, Xueliang Pan2; 1Medical University of South Carolina, 2The Ohio State University, 3Queens College, City University of New York

Introduction: Emotional stimuli have been shown to interfere with language production in neurotypical adults (Burbridge et al., 2005; White et al., 2016). One study by our group showed that the emotion-interference effect on word retrieval was greater for older than younger adults on an object picture naming task (Schwen Blacket et al., 2017). Stimulus type and task characteristics may also interact with effects of emotion on word retrieval (Okon Singer et al., 2013). The current study examined the robustness of this age-modulated effect of emotion on word retrieval by using four naming tasks that varied by stimulus type and word class in a new sample of younger and older adults. Methods: Twenty-one younger and 19 older adults participated in tasks presenting positive, negative, and neutral stimuli, taken from the International Affective Picture System (Lang et al., 2008) and Affective Norms for Emotional Words database (Bradley & Lang, 1999). Tasks included object picture-naming (60 items), action picture-naming (60 items), category-member generation (39 items), and verb generation (60 items). The three valence sets within each task had equal numbers of items and were balanced for word frequency, concreteness, imageability, age of acquisition, visual complexity (picture-naming tasks), and number of phonemes, syllables, and living vs. nonliving items. Task, valence block, and item-order were randomized across participants. Accuracy and reaction time (RT) were measured for each trial. Generalized logistic and linear mixed-effects models were used to evaluate differences in accuracy and RT between age groups and among tasks and valence. Results: All planned fixed effects were included in the final model (Age Group, Task, Valence, Task*Valence, and Task*Valence*Age Group). Participants were included as a random effect (intercept only). All fixed effects in the model were statistically significant (ps < .05). Across tasks, older adults scored slightly worse than younger adults (Older: M = 96.6%, SD = 2.0, Younger: M = 98.2%, SD = 2.0, p = .011) and demonstrated longer RTs (Older: M = 1652 ms, SD = 284, Younger: M = 1467 ms, SD = 240, p = .031). Younger and older adults responded poorest and slowest to negative trials compared to positive and neutral trials. Though accuracy on positive and neutral trials was not significantly different, RTs were significantly faster for neutral than positive trials for both age groups. This effect of emotion was greater for older adults than younger adults across all four tasks. This additional age-related slowing effect for emotional items was greatest for object picture-naming followed by category member generation, action picture-naming, and then verb generation. Conclusion: Emotional stimuli, and especially negative stimuli, appear to interfere with word retrieval performance, and this effect seems to be greater for older adults compared to younger adults. These findings replicate results from our previous study (Schwen Blackett et al., 2017), generalizing findings to three other naming tasks that included words in addition to pictures and action/verb naming in addition to object/noun naming, revealing the robustness of this age-modulated emotion effect on word retrieval. Theoretical hypotheses for these results will be discussed.

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