Lexical emotional expression across the life span: Quantitative and qualitative analyses of word list generation tasks

Matthias H. Tabert, Shelley Peery, Joan C. Borod, J. Michael Schmidt, Ilana Grunwald, Martin Sliwinski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The current study examined the effects of age and gender on emotional and nonemotional expression using an experimental word list generation (WLG) task (also referred to in the literature as verbal fluency) from the New York Emotion Battery (Borod, Welkowitz, & Obler, 1992). Subjects were 28 young (M = 29.6 years), 28 middle-aged (M = 49.8 years), and 28 older (M = 69.9 years) healthy adults. The WLG task consists of 8 emotional (E; 3 positive and 5 negative) and 8 nonemotional (NE) categories. We developed and present here a detailed word error-type analysis that was used to evaluate the lexical output. In this study, both quantitative (amount of output and error-types) and qualitative (accuracy and intensity) analyses were used. While subjects produced more nonemotional than emotional words and more positive than negative words, the amount of error-free output and the number of errors did not change with age. An age group by error-type interaction indicated that older adults, especially men, produced more repetition errors than younger adults. The error-free output was subsequently rated for accuracy and emotional intensity. The rating data revealed that older women's overall lexical output was less accurate than that produced by younger women. Also, negative emotional words were more accurate and intense than positive emotional words. The procedures described here have implications for research assessing word list generation and emotional expression in clinical populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)531-550
Number of pages20
JournalClinical Neuropsychologist
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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