Looking at the Sunny Side of Life Age-Related Change in an Event-Related Potential Measure of the Negativity Bias
ABSTRACT Studies of the negativity bias have demonstrated that negative information has a stronger influence than positive information in a wide range of cognitive domains. At odds with this literature is extensive work now documenting emotional and motivational shifts that result in a positivity effect in older adults. It remains unclear, however, whether this age-related positivity effect results from increases in processing of positive information or from decreases in processing of negative information. Also unknown is the specific time course of development from a negative bias to an apparently positive one. The present study was designed to investigate the negativity bias across the life span using an event-related potential measure of responding to emotionally valenced images. The results suggest that neural reactivity to negative images declines linearly with age, but responding to positive images is surprisingly age invariant across most of the adult life span.
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ABSTRACT: Empathic arousal is the first ontogenetic building block of empathy to appear during infancy and early childhood. As development progresses, empathic arousal becomes associated with an increasing ability to differentiate between self and other, which is a critical aspect of mature empathetic ability (Decety and Jackson, 2004). This allows for better regulation of contagious distress and understanding others mental states. In the current study, we recorded electroencephalographic event-related potentials and mu suppression induced by short visual animations that depicted painful situations in 57 typically developing children aged between 3 to 9 years as well as 15 young adults. Results indicate that the difference wave of an early automatic component (N200), indexing empathic arousal, showed an age-related decrease in amplitude. In contrast, the difference wave of late-positive potentials (LPP), associated with cognitive appraisal, showed an age-related gain. Only early LPP was detected in children, whereas both early and late LPP were observed in adults. Furthermore, as compared with adults, children showed stronger mu suppression when viewing both painful and non-painful stimuli. These findings provide neurophysiological support for the development of empathy during childhood, as indicated by a gradual decrease in emotional arousal and an increase in cognitive appraisal with age.Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience 09/2014; 10:160-169. DOI:10.1016/j.dcn.2014.08.012 · 3.71 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The "positivity effect" refers to an age-related trend that favors positive over negative stimuli in cognitive processing. Relative to their younger counterparts, older people attend to and remember more positive than negative information. Since the effect was initially identified and the conceptual basis articulated (Mather and Carstensen, 2005) scores of independent replications and related findings have appeared in the literature. Over the same period, a number of investigations have failed to observe age differences in the cognitive processing of emotional material. When findings are considered in theoretical context, a reliable pattern of evidence emerges that helps to refine conceptual tenets. In this article we articulate the operational definition and theoretical foundations of the positivity effect and review the empirical evidence based on studies of visual attention, memory, decision making, and neural activation. We conclude with a discussion of future research directions with emphasis on the conditions where a focus on positive information may benefit and/or impair cognitive performance in older people.Frontiers in Psychology 09/2012; 3:339. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00339 · 2.80 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Emotional stimuli generally command more brain processing resources than non-emotional stimuli, but the magnitude of this effect is subject to voluntary control. Cognitive reappraisal represents one type of emotion regulation that can be voluntarily employed to modulate responses to emotional stimuli. Here, the late positive potential (LPP), a specific event-related brain potential (ERP) component, was measured in response to neutral, positive and negative images while participants performed an evaluative categorization task. One experimental group adopted a "negative frame" in which images were categorized as negative or not. The other adopted a "positive frame" in which the exact same images were categorized as positive or not. Behavioral performance confirmed compliance with random group assignment, and peak LPP amplitude to negative images was affected by group membership: brain responses to negative images were significantly reduced in the "positive frame" group. This suggests that adopting a more positive appraisal frame can modulate brain activity elicited by negative stimuli in the environment.Journal of Integrative Neuroscience 12/2011; 10(4):513-24. DOI:10.1142/S0219635211002816 · 1.12 Impact Factor