Age-related differences in processing of emotions in speech disappear with babble noise in the background

Yehuda I. Dor, Daniel Algom, Vered Shakuf, Boaz M. Ben-David*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Older adults process emotional speech differently than young adults, relying less on prosody (tone) relative to semantics (words). This study aimed to elucidate the mechanisms underlying these age-related differences via an emotional speech-in-noise test. A sample of 51 young and 47 older adults rated spoken sentences with emotional content on both prosody and semantics, presented on the background of wideband speech-spectrum noise (sensory interference) or on the background of multi-talker babble (sensory/cognitive interference). The presence of wideband noise eliminated age-related differences in semantics but not in prosody when processing emotional speech. Conversely, the presence of babble resulted in the elimination of age-related differences across all measures. The results suggest that both sensory and cognitive-linguistic factors contribute to age-related changes in emotional speech processing. Because real world conditions typically involve noisy background, our results highlight the importance of testing under such conditions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCognition and Emotion
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


FundersFunder number
Israel Science FoundationISF-543-19, ISF 1726/22
Israel Science Foundation


    • aging
    • emotions
    • noise
    • sensory-cognitive interactions
    • Speech processing


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