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Aging and Motivated Cognition: The Positivity Effect in Attention and Memory

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As people get older, they experience fewer negative emotions. Strategic processes in older adults' emotional attention and memory might play a role in this variation with age. Older adults show more emotionally gratifying memory distortion for past choices and autobiographical information than younger adults do. In addition, when shown stimuli that vary in affective valence, positive items account for a larger proportion of older adults' subsequent memories than those of younger adults. This positivity effect in older adults' memories seems to be due to their greater focus on emotion regulation and to be implemented by cognitive control mechanisms that enhance positive and diminish negative information. These findings suggest that both cognitive abilities and motivation contribute to older adults' improved emotion regulation.
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Aging and motivated cognition:
the positivity effect in attention
and memory
Mara Mather
1
and Laura L. Carstensen
2
1
Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA
2
Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94035, USA
As people get older, they experience fewer negative
emotions. Strategic processes in older adults’ emotional
attention and memory might play a role in this variation
with age. Older adults show more emotionally gratifying
memory distortion for past choices and autobiographical
information than younger adults do. In addition, when
shown stimuli that vary in affective valence, positive
items account for a larger proportion of older adults’
subsequent memories than those of younger adults.
This positivity effect in older adults’ memories seems to
be due to their greater focus on emotion regulation and
to be implemented by cognitive control mechanisms
that enhance positive and diminish negative informa-
tion. These findings suggest that both cognitive abilities
and motivation contribute to older adults’ improved
emotion regulation.
Introduction
There are reasons to believe that well-being should decline
as people get older. Physical health and cognitive abilities
decline and the amount of lifetime remaining decreases.
Yet the frequency of negative affect (emotions) decreases
throughout most of adulthood and levels off around age 60
[1–3]. Positive affect remains largely stable across adult
lifetime, although some studies show modest increases [3]
or slight decreases [2] with age. Thus, the ratio of positive
to negative affect improves through adulthood. What might
explain this surprising observation across the same years
that physical and cognitive health declines? In this article,
we review recent findings that suggest that a greater focus
on emotional goals among older adults lead them to favor
positive and avoid negative information in their attention
and memory. Interactions between emotion and cognition,
although important to understand at all ages, might be
particularly relevant for understanding and improving
cognitive performance in older adults.
Cognitive control declines with age
Perhaps the most widely acknowledged psychological
change with age is the decline in cognitive processes,
especially memory. However, not all cognitive processes
decline with age – not even all types of memory. One
general characterization is that older adults have
impaired cognitive control that is associated with deterior-
ation in prefrontal brain regions [4,5]. Thus, older adults
show deficits on attention and memory tasks that require
the generation and maintenance of internal strategies
rather than just reliance on external cues [6–8]. For
example, explicit recall of words studied a few minutes
previously was shown to decline across a four-year period
whereas implicit memory of recently studied words did not
show a decline with age [9].
Emotion regulation improves with age
In contrast with the declines seen in cognitive control, age
does not impair emotional control. Compared with
younger adults, older adults report that they focus more
on selfcontrol of their emotions and rate their emotion-
regulation skills as better [10,11]. When dealing with an
upsetting interpersonal situation, older adults report
being less likely to engage in destructive behavioral
responses such as shouting or name calling [12]. A study
that sampled participants’ moods at random intervals
over the course of a week found that when participants
experienced a negative mood, it was less likely to persist to
the next sampling occasion among older adults than
younger adults, suggesting that older adults are able to
dissipate negative affect more effectively than younger
adults are [1].
Research with younger adults suggests that mechan-
isms used to regulate emotions are implemented by some
of the same brain regions as mechanisms used to control
cognition [13]. On the face of it, this seems paradoxical
[14]. How could it be that older adults are more effective
emotion regulators than younger adults but less effective
in cognitive control processes involved in encoding and
retrieving memories? One possibility is that although
there are significant declines in strategic control processes
with age, there are also shifts in how people allocate these
processes in their everyday lives [15]. For example, the
under-recruitment of frontal brain regions observed in
older adults is eliminated when they are given instruc-
tions to use particular strategies (e.g. [16]), suggesting
that at least some of the presumed aging deficits reported
in the literature reflect behavioral shifts as much as
fundamental neural deterioration.
Corresponding author: Mather, M. (mather@ucsc.edu).
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Resource allocation, of course, implicates motivation.
Why might people allocate more resources towards
regulating emotion as they age? Socio emotional selectiv-
ity theory (see Box 1) is a lifespan theory of motivation
that posits shifts in the priorities of different goals with
age because time horizons become increasingly con-
strained [17]. As people approach the end of life, goals
associated with emotional meaning and well-being become
more salient whereas goals associated with acquiring
knowledge for future use become less so.
Older adults’ attention shows signs of emotion
regulation
We fully attend to only a small portion of what is happening
around us and often fail to process information that is not
consistent with current goals [18]. Older adults’ greater
focus on regulating emotion is therefore likely to change
what they pay attention to. A study supporting this
possibility used a dot-probe task, in which one emotional
and one neutral face appeared side by side on a computer
screen for 1 s [19]. When the faces disappeared, a dot
appeared behind one of the faces. Older adults were slower
to indicate which side dots were on when they appeared
behind negative faces than behind neutral faces, and faster
when they appeared behind positive faces than neutral faces
(Figure 1). By contrast, younger adults did not show any
attentional biases for the faces. Age differences in atten-
tional biases also influence which features of choice options
people focus on. For example, when given a chart with
information about several models of car (e.g. whether the
gas mileage is good or bad) and asked which car they would
choose, older adults spend a larger proportion of their time
reviewing the positive features and a smaller proportion of
their time reviewing the negative features than younger
adults do [20] (Figure 2).
Although dwelling on negative stimuli might put one in
a bad mood, it is important to detect threatening stimuli
quickly. Studies with younger adults indicate that they
detect threatening information more quickly than other
types of information [21]. Do the age differences in emo-
tional attention reflect a decline in older adults’ ability to
detect threatening information quickly? A study using a
visual search task suggests not [22]. Participants were
shown a series of arrays of nine schematic faces and had to
indicate whether the faces in each array were all the same
or not. Half the time all the faces were neutral and half the
time there was one emotional face in the array. As in
previous studies [23], younger adults were faster to detect
discrepant faces when the facial expressions were angry
than when they were sad or happy. But older adults also
showed the same advantage for the threatening faces,
indicating that the detection advantage for threatening
stimuli is maintained among older adults.
Automatic versus controlled processes
Across the various studies discussed so far, it appears that
there is no age difference in the likelihood of noticing
threatening information but that older adults do not dwell
Box 1. Socioemotional selectivity theory
Socioemotional selectivity theory maintains that time horizons
influence goals. When time is perceived as open-ended, goals are
most likely to be preparatory, for example, gathering information,
experiencing novelty and expanding breadth of knowledge. When
constraints on time are perceived, goals focus more on objectives
that can be realized in their very pursuit. Under these conditions,
goals emphasize feeling states, particularly regulating emotional
states to optimize well-being.
As an example of socioemotional selectivity theory, age differences
in goals are seen whenparticipants are asked whom theywould like to
spend time with. Younger adults are more likely to chose social
partners that offer new information, such as a book author, whereas
older adults are more likely to chose social partners likely to satisfy
emotionalgoals, such as close friends or familymembers [67,68].Time
perspective is not a fixed characteristic, however, so younger adults
with terminal illnesses or those who are simply asked to imagine an
impending geographical relocation emphasize emotional goals as
much as older adults [68,69]. Likewise, if older adults are asked to
imagine that medical advances would offer them much longer lives,
they are more likely to show preferences revealing knowledge-seeking
goals than if they are not asked to imagine this situation [67].
TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences
Younger
Attentional bias score
Positive faces
Negative faces
+
–25
–20
–15
–10
–5
0
5
10
15
20
25 Older
(a) (b)
Time
Figure 1. (a) The display in the dot-probe task [19]. After a fixation cross, two faces appeared simultaneously side by side, one emotional face (here on the left) and one neutral
face (right). When the faces disappear, a dot appears in the place of one of the faces and participants are asked to respond on the basis of the emotional valence of that face.
(b) Attentional bias scores of younger and older groups of adults. Positive scores indicate faster responses to dot appearing behind emotional faces than behind neutral faces.
Older adults showed higher scores to positive faces and lower scores to negative faces than younger adults. Error bars show the standard error of the mean.
Review TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences Vol.9 No.10 October 2005 497
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on negative information. A study using eyetracking
supports this distinction between initial detection and
sustained attention [24]. When a negative and a neutral
picture were displayed together, both younger and older
adults were more likely to glance initially at the negative
picture. But younger adults looked longer at the negative
pictures than the older adults did. By contrast, there were
no age differences when the two pictures were positive and
neutral; both age groups showed greater sustained
attention to the positive than the neutral picture.
Both automatic and controlled processes influence
attention to emotional stimuli [25]. Goal-directed control
processes help select information to attend to or to ignore.
However, potentially threatening or aversive stimuli
receive preferential processing even when attention is
limited, indicating that emotion can direct attention even
when one’s current goals are directed elsewhere. As
outlined in Table 1, we hypothesize that emotional atten-
tion and memory reveal age differences when goal directed
controlled processes are involved, but not when only
automatic processes contribute to the effects.
In summary, the literature on emotional attention and
aging suggests that automatic emotional attention processes,
such as threat detection, change little with age. By contrast,
attentional processes that are more influenced by top-down
control reveal age differences in which older adults attend
more to positive information than negative information.
Older adults’ memory also shows influence of emotion
regulation
Like attention, memory is selective. As attended infor-
mation is more likely to be remembered than nonattended
information, initial attention provides one filter of the
incoming information stream [26]. Older adults’ atten-
tional biases reviewed in the previous section should
therefore influence what gets encoded. Goals also influ-
ence how memories are reconstructed later [27–30],so
emotional goals would be expected to lead older adults to
distort their memories in a positive direction more than
younger adults.
Memory for choices and emotional stimuli
These possibilities are supported by findings from studies
that examined age differences in emotional memory. In
one study, groups of younger and older adults were asked
to make a series of hypothetical choices, each between
two options that had some positive and some negative
features [31]. When remembering past choices, one way to
regulate emotion is to remember one’s chosen option as
having more good features than the rejected options did.
When later asked to indicate which option features had
been associated with, older adults showed more choice
supportive memory than younger adults, attributing more
positive features to chosen options and more negative
features to rejected options. However, if younger adults
were asked to focus on their feelings after making the
choices, their later memories were just as choice sup-
portive as those of older adults. Thus, younger adults do
not seem to focus on emotional goals unless reminded to
do so by some external cue.
Age differences are also sometimes found in memory for
emotional pictures [32], words [33] and faces [19,34]. For
instance, when participants viewed a picture slide show
without any instructions about how to encode the pictures,
an age by valence interaction occurred in later recall and
recognition [32]. Although older adults were less likely to
remember the pictures overall, the age difference was
greatest for the negative pictures and smallest for the
positive pictures (Figure 3). These positivity effects were
consistent across men and women, African- and European-
Americans, and people of low and high socioeconomic status.
One recent study of working memory for emotional material
(Mikels, Larkin, Reuter-Lorenz and Carstensen, unpub-
lished) indicates that in some cases, positivity effects can
even lead older adults to show superior memory perform-
ance than younger adults. In this study, older adults
outperformed younger adults when the working memory
task involved positive stimuli whereas younger adults
outperformed older adults when the task involved negative
stimuli.
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Negative
Positive
Proportion of viewing time
0
0.1
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.5
0.6
Younger Older
Figure 2. Total viewing time of older and younger adults for positive and negative
car option features, when asked to choose a car [20]. Error bars show the standard
error of the mean.
Table 1. Automatic vs controlled processes affecting emotional attention and memory
Nature of
emotional
influence on
cognition
Associated brain regions Impact of emotion-regulation goals Relevance for emotional attention Relevance for emotional memory
Automatic,
bottom-up
Amygdala: shows
relatively little decline
with age [14,61,62]
None or very little Arousing (especially threatening)
information is noticed quickly by both
younger and older adults, no age
differences seen in this threat/arousal
detection advantage [22,24]
Enhancement in memory for arousing
stimuli is as large for older adults as it is
for younger adults [32,36–38]
Goal-directed, top-
down, subject to
cognitive control
Prefrontal brain regions:
show significant decline
with age, reducing
cognitive control
abilities [4,5]
Significantly affected by emotional
goals; extent of influence of these goals
is constrained by the effectiveness of
cognitive control processes
Older adults attend less to negative
stimuli and as much or more to positive
stimuli as younger adults do [19,20,24]
A smaller proportion of what older
adults remember is negative [19,32–34]
and their memories are more likely to
be distorted in a positive direction
[31,39,40,42]
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By contrast, some studies that examined memory for
emotional stimuli found no interactions of valence and age
[35–37] or only a marginally significant one [38]. One
possibility is that the specific encoding tasks given in these
studies (typically to rate or focus on the emotional
characteristics of the stimuli) limited the influence of
emotional goals. Open-ended encoding sessions might be
more likely to show the effects of emotional goals. It also
seems likely that the more personally relevant the
information is, the more likely older adults would be to
attempt to implement emotion-regulation goals when
processing the information.
Autobiographical memory
Of course, the most personally relevant type of memory
is autobiographical. Several studies reveal positivity
effects in older adults’ autobiographical memories. A
study that examined memory for a political candidate’s
withdrawal from an election race found that older adults
were more likely than younger adults to forget the
intensity of their negative affect [39]. In another study,
when asked to recall positive and negative events from
their past and rate the characteristics of those memories,
older adults indicated higher levels of positive feelings
and less complexity associated with negative memories
than younger adults did [40], consistent with previous
findings that older adults use positive reappraisal as a
strategy to cope with stressful encounters more often than
younger adults do [41].
A greater focus on emotional goals when remembering
also seems to influence the direction of distortion when
people reconstruct past health and habits. Among several
hundred nuns who recalled health behaviors and daily
habits from 14 years ago, the direction of memory
distortion became more positive with age [42]. However,
in another group that rated their current emotions every
so often during the memory questionnaire, both older and
TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences
Number of images recalled
Positive
Negative
Neutral
0
1
2
3
4
5
Young Middle-aged Old
(b)(a)
(c)
(d)
Figure 3. (a) Total number of pictures recalled by younger (18–29 years old), middle-aged (41–53 years old), and older (65–80 years old) adults [32]; examples of (b) positive,
(c) neutral and (d) negative pictures seen in the experiment. Error bars show the confidence interval for the age-by-valence interaction.
TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences
Direction of memory bias
Accuracy Youngest
controls Oldest
controls Emotion
–25
–20
–15
–10
–5
0
5
10
15
20
25
Figure 4. Degree of positive or negative memory distortion for nuns answering
various questions about their health and well-being 14 years ago [42]. For example,
the nuns were asked, ‘How often were you completely worn out at the end of the
day?’ and ‘How often did you experience happiness?’ Participants in the control
condition simply filled out the memory questionnaire. In the accuracy condition,
they were repeatedly queried about the memory strategies they were using and in
the emotion condition they were repeatedly queried about their current emotions
as they completed the questionnaire. The bias scores reflect a comparison of the
nuns’ remembered health and well-being to their actual ratings 14 years ago.
Memories that were more positive than the actual ratings yielded positive scores
whereas those that were more negative yielded negative scores. Error bars show
the standard error of the mean.
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younger nuns put a positive spin on their past health and
personal habits (Figure 4). Thus, as previously shown in
the study of memory for choices [31], reminding younger
adults to pay attention to their current emotional state
can lead them to show the same positivity effect in memory
as older adults. Conversely, in a condition in which
participants were induced to focus on memory accuracy,
both younger and older nuns showed a negative bias in
their memories (Figure 4). Evidently, the goals that are
most salient at the time of retrieval can influence the
valence of memories for both younger and older adults, but
when not explicitly focused on any goal, older adults are
more likely than younger adults to engage in emotion
regulation strategies during the retrieval process. This
suggests that emotion-regulation goals are chronically
activated among older adults, but only activated in certain
contexts for younger adults (for discussions of chronic
accessibility of goals, see [43,44]).
In this study of nuns [42], completing the autobio-
graphical memory questionnaire improved mood for the
older group and the ‘emotion-focussed’ group, but not for
the younger control group or ‘memory accuracy’ group.
Thus, remembering things in a positive light can be an
effective emotion-regulation strategy. Such positivity
biases in memory are likely to be an important factor
contributing to the increase in positive affect seen with
age. For example, in an study that sampled experiences
from participants’ lives, increases in positive affect across
the lifespan were seen for social occasions that involved
reminiscing, but there were no age differences for affect in
the other social occasions [45].
A long-term benefit?
It is possible that these benefits resulting from positive
memory biases might be only temporary. In fact, one inter-
pretation ofthe results is that older adults’ positivity effects
reflect repression or denial that might impair health in the
long run. However, research with people grieving the death
of a spouse suggests that experiencing positive affect even in
response to negative events is beneficial rather than
harmful [46]. Bereaved spouses who experience some posi-
tive emotions while grieving immediately after the death are
more likely to thrive in the following years than those who
show more pronounced distress.
In summary, older adults show positivity biases in
memory that manifest themselves in a variety of ways,
including selectively remembering a higher proportion of
positive stimuli and a lower proportion of negative stimuli
than younger adults do [20,32,33], attributing remem-
bered choice features to options in ways that should satisfy
emotional goals [31], and reconstructing autobiographical
memories so they seem more positive than they actually
were [39,42]. These biases help improve the moods of older
people [42,45] and can also be induced in younger adults
by reminding them to focus on their emotions [31,42].In
the next section, we argue that cognitive control processes
help create these positivity effects.
Effective emotion regulation requires cognitive control
As reviewed in the section on attention, older adults are
more likely than younger adults to ignore negative
information [19,20,24]. Goal-directed selective attention
requires control processes, as do other types of emotion
regulation strategies, such as situation selection, situation
modification, attentional deployment, reappraisal, and
response modulation [47]. Research with younger adults
suggests that the anterior cingulate, medial prefrontal
cortex and orbital/ventromedial frontal cortex play
important roles in implementing these emotional control
processes [48–50].
Although cognitive control declines with age [4,5], there
are significant individual differences in the degree of
decline [51]. This leads to the counterintuitive prediction
that those older adults who show the most effects of age in
terms of cognitive control should show the least effects of
age in the valence of what they attend to and remember.
Even if they are more focused on emotional goals than
younger adults, the low-cognitive-control older adults will
have difficulty implementing them. This hypothesis could
help to explain why older adults who have sustained
strokes or microvascular lesions in frontal brain regions
and have impaired executive processes are prone to
latelife onset of depression [52,53] that is not responsive
to antidepressant medications [54–56].
In addition, older adults who perform poorly on tests of
cognitive control are less likely than those who perform
well to show positivity effects in memory (Mather and
Knight, unpublished). Dividing attention during a picture
slide show does not affect the valence of younger adults’
later recall, but eliminates the positivity effect for older
adults (Mather and Knight, unpublished), consistent with
our hypothesis that emotional goals have higher priority
and are more likely to be allocated cognitive resources
among older adults than younger adults. These links
between cognitive abilities and emotion regulation
suggest that older adults who show the fewest signs of
cognitive decline are the ones who will be most likely to
show positivity effects that help regulate emotion.
The amygdala and aging
The amygdala is a region of the brain that responds to
emotionally arousing information (especially negative,
threatening information) and helps enhance the consoli-
dation of memory for such information [57–60]. Thus, it is
possible that age-related declines in the amygdala might
account for some of the age differences in emotional
attention and memory.
However, current evidence suggests that older adults’
preferential ignoring and forgetting of negative stimuli is
not the result of amygdala decline. Findings that, com-
pared with younger adults, older adults show as much of
an advantage in detecting and orienting to threatening
information [22,24], and as much of a benefit in memory
for arousing relative to non-arousing stimuli [32,36–38],
suggest they have relatively well-maintained amygdala
function (see Table 1). Neuroanatomical studies are
mostly consistent with this possibility, as, compared with
other brain regions, the volume of the amygdala shows
relatively little decline in normal aging [14,61,62].
Instead of overall decline in the amygdala, there might
be changes in what stimuli it is most likely to respond to
with increasing age. Older adults show as much of an
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increase in amygdala activation when viewing positive
pictures as younger adults do, but significantly less of an
increase when viewing negative pictures [63]. While view-
ing negative faces, they show less amygdala activation but
more anterior cingulate activation than younger adults
[64,65]. Recent research with younger adults indicates
that amygdala activation can be downregulated by
emotional control processes implemented by other brain
regions, especially the anterior cingulate, medial pre-
frontal cortex and orbital/ventromedial frontal cortex [49].
Thus, older adults might be using top-down control
processes supported by prefrontal brain regions such as
the anterior cingulate to downregulate amygdala responses
to negative information.
Conclusion
Because of their power to affect mood, memories have a
utility that goes beyond the information they convey
(see, for example, [66]). Recent research suggests that
older adults are motivated by their focus on emotional
goals to encode information and subsequently remember it
in ways that enhance their well-being. Furthermore, those
older adults who are best able to engage cognitive control
mechanisms are most likely to be successful at remember-
ing information in emotionally gratifying ways. The body
of research we have reviewed suggests that motivation –
in particular motivation to regulate emotion states – plays
an important role in cognitive aging. In particular, these
findings highlight the importance of considering the
dynamic interplay among biological and motivational
changes in older adults’ everyday attention and memory
(see also Box 2).
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Box 2. Questions for future research
There are many types of cognitive control of emotion, ranging from
selective attention to reappraisal [50]. There is evidence that older
adults engage in selective attention to emotional stimuli [19,20,24] as
well as in selection strategies socially [70]. But how likely are they to
engage in other types of emotion control? Are older adults also more
likely than younger adults to regulate emotions through reappraisal
or suppression or are these strategies less effective in the old?
Further work is needed to understand the interplay of biological
and motivational factors in older adults’ positivity effects. We have
argued that it is the older adults with high-functioning cognitive
control abilities (which is correlated with little prefrontal decline)
who should be most likely to show positivity effects. But are there
changes in the brain that contribute to the age differences in
emotional attention and memory or would younger adults with
limited time horizons show the same effects? There is some initial
evidence that changes in time perspective can make younger adults
emotional memories more like those of older adults [71].
Does the greater focus on emotion regulation in older adults also
affect their decision making [72]? For example, does their greater
allocation of attention to positive features of choice options [20]
mean they weight these features more heavily in making choices
than younger adults do? If positivity effects are observed during the
decision process, are they associated with poor quality decisions
because negative material receives less attention [73], or could a
positive framing of options result in better decision quality?
Review TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences Vol.9 No.10 October 2005 501
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29 Brunot, S. and Sanitioso, R.B. (2004) Motivational influence on the
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school grades. Psychol. Sci. 7, 265–271
31 Mather, M. and Johnson, M.K. (2000) Choicesupportive source
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Aging 15, 596–606
32 Charles, S.T. et al. (2003) Aging and emotional memory: the
forgettable nature of negative images for older adults. J. Exp. Psychol.
Gen. 132, 310–324
33 Knight, B.G. et al. (2002) The effects of sad mood on memory in older
adults: a test of the mood congruence effect. Psychol. Aging 17, 653–661
34 Leigland, L.A. et al. (2004) Age related changes in emotional memory.
Neurobiol. Aging 25, 1117–1124
35 D’Argembeau, A. and Van der Linden, M. (2004) Identity but not
expression memory for unfamiliar faces is affected by ageing. Memory
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36 Kensinger, E.A. et al. (2002) Effects of normal aging and Alzheimer’s
disease on emotional memory. Emotion 2, 118–134
37 Comblain, C. et al. (2004) Impact of ageing on the recollection of
emotional and neutral pictures. Memory 12, 673–684
38 Denburg, N.L. et al. (2003) Evidence for preserved emotional memory
in normal elderly persons. Emotion 3, 239–254
39 Levine, L.J. and Bluck, S. (1997) Experienced and remembered
emotional intensity in older adults. Psychol. Aging 12, 514–523
40 Comblain, C. et al. (2005) Phenomenal characteristics of autobio-
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41 Folkman, S. et al. (1987) Age differences in stress and coping
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42 Kennedy, Q. et al. (2004) The role of motivation in the age-related
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43 Fitzsimons, G.M. and Bargh, J.A. (2004) Automatic self-regulation. In
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45 Pasupathi, M. and Carstensen, L.L. (2003) Age and emotional
experience during mutual reminiscing. Psychol. Aging 18, 430–442
46 Bonanno, G.A. (2004) Loss, trauma, and human resilience: Have we
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47 Gross, J.J. (2001) Emotion regulation in adulthood: timing is
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48 Ochsner, K.N. et al. (2002) Rethinking feelings: An fMRI study of the
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49 Ochsner, K.N. et al. (2004) For better or for worse: neural systems
supporting the cognitive down- and up-regulation of negative emotion.
Neuroimage 23, 483–499
50 Ochsner, K.N. and Gross, J.J. (2005) The cognitive control of emotion.
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51 Glisky, E.L. et al. (1995) Double dissociation between item and source
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52 Firbank, M.J. et al. (2004) A volumetric study of MRI signal
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... For example, both younger and older adults generally remember affective (positive and negative) information better than neutral information. Moreover, older adults often show positivity effects, that is, better memory for positive information compared to negative information, while younger adults seem to remember negative information better than positive information [21,22]. In line with studies in the literature, we expect younger and older adults to remember more trivia answers in high-curiosity states compared to low-curiosity states. ...
... Interestingly, we did not find valence-related benefits on memory performance, suggesting that curiosity may be an even more effective motivational boost for memory. Many studies on emotion and memory [21] have emphasized that, although older adults show declines in cognitive control, emotion regulation abilities and memory for affective information seem to remain intact. In fact, age does not seem to impair affective information processing and results consistently show how younger and older adults remember affective information better than neutral information [20]. ...
... In fact, age does not seem to impair affective information processing and results consistently show how younger and older adults remember affective information better than neutral information [20]. Furthermore, many studies have revealed interesting age-related memory patterns linked to the valence of emotional information [21]. In particular, these studies show how older adults generally remember positive information (positivity effect) better than negative and neutral information [19,[33][34][35]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Curiosity benefits memory for target information and may also benefit memory for incidental information presented during curiosity states. However, it is not known whether incidental curiosity-enhanced memory depends on or is affected by the valence of the incidental information during curiosity states. Here, older and younger participants incidentally encoded unrelated face images (positive, negative, and neutral) while they anticipated answers to trivia questions. We found memory enhancements for answers to trivia questions and unrelated faces presented during high-curiosity compared with low-curiosity states in both younger and older adults. Interestingly, face valence did not modify memory for unrelated faces. This suggests processes associated with the elicitation of curiosity enhance memory for incidental information instead of valence.
... One factor that might affect self-efficacy judgments for older learners is a change in affective orientation related to attitudes with age. According to socioemotional selectivity theory (Carstensen et al., 1999) goals and attitudes change with age in ways that support emotional wellbeing, and as part of this development, people tend to become more biased to attend to positive (versus negative) stimuli (i.e., the positivity effect; Mather & Carstensen, 2005). The positivity effect is thought to function to protect emotional well-being in the face of cognitive -and other -declines experienced with age. ...
... Arguably older adults will also experience training-related anxiety given internalized stereotypes about their inability to learn (Posthuma & Campion, 2009) and frustration related to negative training performance. Similar to self-efficacy, however, the positivity effect may mitigate the effect of negative training experiences on trainee reactions for older learners by focusing trainee attention on what worked well in training versus what did not (Mather & Carstensen, 2005). Also similar to our theorizing about self-efficacy, we did not expect a focus on positive versus negative stimuli to completely offset the anxiety and frustration that older trainees will likely experience in training, which we believe will be more directly related to their training reactions. ...
... Although the finding that -in general -older learners tend to have lower self-efficacy post-training relative to younger learners may not be surprising given that older learners tend also to take longer and do worse in training compared to younger learners, it is important to establish this relationship because age differences in post-training self-efficacy might negatively impact the likelihood that older workers will select goals that require training and development (Baltes et al., 1999). Moreover, although we found a negative relationship between age and posttraining self-efficacy, a general tendency for older people to focus on positive relative to negative stimuli (i.e., the positivity effect; Mather & Carstensen, 2005) may mitigate the negative effect of poor performance on self-efficacy for older trainees. More research is needed, however, to examine age and post-training self-efficacy within the lifespan development framework. ...
Article
The confluence of the aging population and economic conditions that require working longer necessitate a focus on how to best train and develop older workers. We report a meta‐analysis of the age and training relationship that examines training outcomes and moderators with 60 independent samples (total N = 10,003). Framed within the lifespan development perspective, we expected and found that older trainees perform worse (ρ = ‐0.14, k = 34, N = 5,642; δ = ‐1.08, k = 21, N = 1,242) and take more time (ρ = 0.19, k = 15, N = 2,780; δ = 1.25, k = 12, N = 664) in training relative to younger trainees. Further, age was negatively related to post‐training self‐efficacy (ρ = ‐0.08, k = 10, N = 4,631), but not related to trainee reactions. Moderator analyses provided mixed support that training alone is related to increased mastery of skills and knowledge. No support was found for the moderating effects of pacing or instructional approach. We call for future research examining the interactive effects of training design on older worker outcomes in ways that capitalize on age‐related growth, compensate for decline, and consider the strategies workers use to mitigate the effect of age‐related losses. (200) This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
... En lien avec cette hypothèse, il a par exemple été montré que les adultes jeunes rapportent davantage d'objectifs relatifs au bien-être émotionnel lorsqu'il leur est demandé d'imaginer un horizon temporel limité (Chu et al. 2018). Afin d'atteindre cet objectif de régulation émotionnelle, les adultes âgés alloueraint davantage de ressources attentionnelles et mnésiques aux informations positives comparativement aux informations négatives, ce qui aboutirait à l'émergence d'un effet de positivité lié à l'âge (e.g., Mather & Carstensen, 2005). ...
... Ce changement de pattern de mémorisation des stimuli émotionnels au cours du vieillissement, nommé effet de positivité lié à l'âge, renvoie à la tendance qu'ont les adultes âgés à mieux mémoriser les stimuli positifs relativement aux stimuli négatifs, lorsqu'on les compare à des adultes jeunes (Reed & Carstensen, 2012). cognitives (Mather & Carstensen, 2005). Par conséquent, la TSS suggère que l'effet de positivité lié à l'âge dépendrait essentiellement de processus contrôlés. ...
Thesis
L’objectif de cette thèse était d’étudier comment les effets de valence émotionnelle sur la mémoire des mots chez l’adulte sont modulés par des caractéristiques des mots (arousal et imageabilité) et des individus (âge et état émotionnel). Dans notre travail expérimental, nous avons utilisé une approche inter-tâches combinant selon les questions posées une tâche d’accès au lexique (démasquage progressif), et/ou des tâches de mémoire épisodique (rappel libre et reconnaissance mnésique). Ce type de protocole reposant sur un matériel verbal commun a permis d’évaluer dans quelle mesure les effets émotionnels observés dans ces diverses tâches reposaient sur des processus communs et/ou distincts. Tout d’abord, nous avons étudié le lien entre les effets de la valence émotionnelle et de l’arousal en démasquage progressif et en rappel libre sur des mesures comportementales (Exp. 1-2). Un biais émotionnel et un biais de positivité étaient présents en démasquage progressif et en rappel libre ; l’effet de l’arousal était spécifique au démasquage progressif. Ces résultats ont montré que des processus majoritairement distincts sous-tendaient les effets des émotions dans les deux types de tâches. Par ailleurs, des analyses complémentaires ont révélé que la valence émotionnelle interagissait avec l’imageabilité en rappel libre. Ensuite, nous avons manipulé l’imageabilité des mots afin d’étudier son influence sur les effets de la valence émotionnelle en rappel libre en utilisant un paradigme comportemental (Exp. 3) et un paradigme en IRMf (Exp. 4). Dans ces expériences, nous avons obtenu un biais de négativité en rappel libre et une activation spécifique au niveau de l’insula et du gyrus temporal supérieur gauche pour les mots négatifs par rapport aux mots positifs. De plus, nous avons montré que l’encodage des mots imageables comparé à celui des mots peu imageables était associé à une activation spécifique du gyrus fusiforme gauche. Enfin, des études comportementales menées chez des adultes jeunes et des adultes plus âgés nous ont permis d’examiner comment l’âge module les effets émotionnels en rappel libre et en reconnaissance mnésique (Exp. 5-6) ainsi qu’en démasquage progressif (Exp. 6). Ces paradigmes ont permis d’observer un effet de positivité lié à l’âge dans les trois tâches. Cependant, cet effet reposerait sur des processus distincts en fonction de la tâche. Les résultats sont interprétés à la fois dans des modèles de reconnaissance visuelle des mots adaptés aux traitements affectifs et de la mémoire, ainsi que dans le cadre de théories du vieillissement affectif.
... Previous findings do not provide a clear direction of the relationship between valence of publicity about athlete endorsers and expected cognitive effects. First, consumers are quicker to recognize positive and pleasant objects compared to negative and threatening ones in low intensity (neutral) settings (Mather & Carstensen, 2005;Rösler et al., 2005). According to the information processing perspective, positive stimuli activate a wide area of the cognitive network via the central route. ...
... According to the information processing perspective, positive stimuli activate a wide area of the cognitive network via the central route. This activation extends to memory to store information about the object (Mather & Carstensen, 2005). It is possible that positive publicity about an athlete endorser will result in more attention toward the ad. ...
Article
Th is research addresses how positive and negative publicity about athlete endorsers infl uences motivational mechanisms (appetitive and aversive) underlying cognitive and aff ective processing and evaluation to ads. Participants viewed an ad for a soft drink brand that featured an athlete endorser while psychophysiological measures of cognition, emotion, and arousal were collected. Each ad was preceded by a news story that contained either positive or negative information about the athlete's off-fi eld behavior. Results indicate that cog-nition and arousal were enhanced in response to ads paired with negative news stories compared to ads paired with positive news stories. Findings suggest that aversive motivational activation elicited by the negative news stories transfers to processing and evaluation of the ads.
... In general, older adults are thought to report higher levels of well-being (Charles et al., 2001;Scheibe and Carstensen, 2010) in part due to what has been described as a positivity effect whereby older adults attend to and remember positive information more than negative information compared to younger adults (Mather and Carstensen, 2005). This shift toward positive emotion may be a result of increased motivation to focus on emotional goals (e.g., maintaining social relationships; socioemotional selectivity theory, Carstensen et al., 1999), leading to an overall increase in the use of some ER skills with aging (Charles et al., 2009;Urry and Gross, 2010;Nashiro et al., 2012). ...
... This shift toward positive emotion may be a result of increased motivation to focus on emotional goals (e.g., maintaining social relationships; socioemotional selectivity theory, Carstensen et al., 1999), leading to an overall increase in the use of some ER skills with aging (Charles et al., 2009;Urry and Gross, 2010;Nashiro et al., 2012). Additionally, this positivity effect seems to be most prominent among older adults who are able to engage greater cognitive control (see review, Mather and Carstensen, 2005). ...
Article
Emotion regulation (ER) processes in older adults may be important for successful aging. Neural correlates of ER processes have been examined using event-related brain potentials (ERPs), such as the late-positive potential (LPP) during cognitive reappraisal paradigms. The current study sought to extend this research by examining the LPP from an ER task in a sample of 47 community-dwelling older adults between the ages of 60 and 84 years, scoring either high on emotional well-being (as measured by habitual ER use and resiliency; high WB group, n = 20) or low on emotional well-being (as measured by habitual ER use, resiliency, and depression; low WB group, n = 27). Participants viewed unpleasant and neutral images and were instructed to simply react to the images or reappraise their emotional response. Both pre- and post-instruction LPP amplitudes were scored, in addition to self-reported ratings of negative emotion collected during the task. We found greater LPP amplitude to emotionally salient compared to neutral stimuli, reduced LPP amplitude following instructions to reappraise emotional response to stimuli across groups, and a blunted LPP overall for individuals with higher depressive symptoms. Additionally, we demonstrated that older adults with low emotional well-being were less successful at reappraisal according to self-reported ratings of negative emotion, although this was not reflected in the LPP. Collectively, these data suggest that laboratory-based ER tasks might be used to understand abnormal ER use—though the LPP may be more sensitive to depression than individual differences in ER ability.
... 5 Source: https://tradingeconomics.com/country-list/households-debt-togdp. As an example, in 2021, household debt to GDP was over 100% for countries such as Switzerland, Canada, Denmark, and Holland.6 Older people tend to process positive cues and thus be fooled more easily than younger people(Isaacowitz et al., 2009;Mather & Carstensen, 2005; Zebrowitz et al., 2013).7 These statistics should not disguise the fact that younger people were tricked as well: they are known to have less market experience and be more impulsive, which may have driven them to contract debt in order to fulfil wild dreams of instant wealth(Hansen, 2017). ...
Article
Full-text available
This paper proposes a theoretical framework in an attempt to better explain the behaviors of some consumers of financial products during market crises. We review the established notions of irrationality and deception, and then add the construct of disconnection from financial needs, goals, and preferences. We propone that these three concepts, respectively cognitive, behavioral, and emotional in nature, create a dark financial profile by which these consumers unwittingly build debt. We use bibliometrics to highlight the current gap in the scholarly domains of interest and provide market examples of how the dark financial profile likely deploys in the marketplace. This is the first article to employ disconnection in such a context, and to improve the understanding of consumer behaviors in regard to disconnection, irrationality, deception, and debt. Thus, we enrich the literature on debt, which has at times ignored the role of the combination of these constructs. We investigate avenues of research for developing further our emerging framework, especially on the notion of disconnection, and suggest that this effort may assist in preparing effective marketing of financial education programs and improving lending practices. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
... This mitigates the negative consequences of choice overload for this age group. Seniors tend to be overconfident in their judgments (Stankov & Crawford, 1996), demonstrating a pronounced focus on positive information (Mather & Carstensen, 2005), and they adopt a satisficing approach when making decisions (Tanius, Wood, Hanoch, & Rice, 2009). These tendencies would explain why the negative consequences of too many choices were milder among seniors. ...
Book
Previous research has shown that neither too much nor too little choice is optimal. Choice sets of an intermediate size offer more positive cognitive and emotional consequences to the decision maker than small and large choice sets. However, the ideal number of choices depends on many factors. This chapter describes the main factors that moderate the effect of choice overload and so determine how much choice is enough. Consistent with Herbert A. Simon’s analogy of a pair of scissors to describe his conception of bounded rationality, where one blade represents the individual cognitive characteristics of the decision maker and the other the structures of the environment, this chapter presents these factors, regrouping them into two main categories: contextual and individual variables.
... Thus, older people pay more attention to positive compared to negative stimuli. This so-called "positivity effect" explains an empirical phenomenon, stating that information processing exhibits a positive bias in aging (Mather and Carstensen, 2005;Reed et al., 2014). ...
Article
Full-text available
Healthy aging is accompanied by multi-faceted changes. Especially within the brain, healthy aging exerts substantial impetus on core parts of cognitive and motivational networks. Rewards comprise basic needs, such as food, sleep, and social contact. Thus, a functionally intact reward system remains indispensable for elderly people to cope with everyday life and adapt to their changing environment. Research shows that reward system function is better preserved in the elderly than most cognitive functions. To investigate the compensatory mechanisms providing reward system stability in aging, we employed a well-established reward paradigm (Monetary Incentive Delay Task) in groups of young and old participants while undergoing EEG measurement. As a new approach, we applied EEG connectivity analyses to assess cortical reward-related network connectivity. At the behavioral level, our results confirm that the function of the reward system is preserved in old age. The mechanisms identified for maintaining reward system function in old age do not fit into previously described models of cognitive aging. Overall, older adults exhibit lower reward-related connectivity modulation, higher reliance on posterior and right-lateralized brain areas than younger adults, and connectivity modulation in the opposite direction than younger adults, with usually greater connectivity during non-reward compared to reward conditions. We believe that the reward system has unique compensatory mechanisms distinct from other cognitive functions, probably due to its etymologically very early origin. In summary, this study provides important new insights into cortical reward network connectivity in healthy aging.
... More specifically, studies have shown that younger adults typically show a negativity bias in item memory (i.e., better memory for negative items), whereas older adults seem to preferably process and memorize positive items (i.e., positivity bias) or put less emphasis on negative items (i.e., reduced negativity bias; Reed et al., 2014). This phenomenon, in both manifestations, is termed positivity effect (Mather & Carstensen, 2005) and, in short, describes older compared to younger adults' relative preference for positive over negative information. ...
Article
The goal of our research was to investigate whether older adults show a source memory enhancement for emotionally valenced sources. Additionally, building on research on the socioemotional selectivity theory and the age-related positivity effect, we tested whether older adults show a larger enhancement for positive compared to negative (and neutral) sources than younger adults. In Experiment 1 (nold = 25, nyoung = 27), we used one positive, one negative, and one neutral picture to manipulate source valence (many-to-one mapping of items to sources), whereas, in Experiment 2 (nold = 62, nyoung = 62), we used multiple pictures per source valence category (one-to-one mapping of items to sources) to counteract potential habituation effects. In both experiments, sources had medium and matching arousal levels. Items were neutral words superimposed on the source pictures. To support an implicit, natural information processing, participants rated the words in terms of pleasantness. We analyzed memory data with a multinomial processing tree model to disentangle memory processes from guessing bias. Across both experiments, an age-related positivity effect occurred in participants' pleasantness ratings. This effect, however, did not carry over to older adults' source memory. That is, in source memory, we found a general emotionality effect for younger but not for older adults and no age-related positivity effect. We propose that due to older adults' pronounced difficulties in remembering the item-to-source link (i.e., associative deficit), even a greater focus on an inherently emotional source might be insufficient to boost source memory.
Article
The power of episodic memories is that they bring a past moment into the present, providing opportunities for us to recall details of the experiences, reframe or update the memory, and use the retrieved information to guide our decisions. In these regards, negative and positive memories can be especially powerful: Life’s highs and lows are disproportionately represented in memory, and when they are retrieved, they often impact our current mood and thoughts and influence various forms of behavior. Research rooted in neuroscience and cognitive psychology has historically focused on memory for negative emotional content. Yet the study of autobiographical memories has highlighted the importance of positive emotional memories, and more recently, cognitive neuroscience methods have begun to clarify why positive memories may show powerful relations to mental wellbeing. Here, we review the models that have been proposed to explain why emotional memories are long-lasting (durable) and likely to be retrieved (accessible), describing how in overlapping—but distinctly separable—ways, positive and negative memories can be easier to retrieve, and more likely to influence behavior. We end by identifying potential implications of this literature for broader topics related to mental wellbeing, education, and workplace environments.
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It is likely that the encoding of emotional experiences involves a complex network of interacting brain regions. The present study used fMRI to identify brain structures involved in the encoding of negative and positive emotional stimuli. Ten subjects viewed alternating blocks of emotionally negative and positive pictures and were tested for long-term recognition memory several months later. Recognition memory for negative and positive pictures was highly correlated. Brain reactivity to negative pictures was positively correlated with better recognition memory for both negative and positive pictures in the amygdala, the insula, and the right middle frontal gyrus. Brain reactivity to positive pictures was positively correlated with better recognition memory for both negative and positive pictures in the left anterior cingulate gyrus. Activation among these brain regions was highly correlated and suggests a network of structures that interact to encode either negative or positive emotional stimuli for long-term recognition memory. Two mechanisms by which this encoding may take place are discussed.
Article
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The aim of this study was to examine the efficacy of life review based on autobiographical retrieval practice for treating depressed older adults. Forty-three adults aged 65-93 with clinically significant depressive symptomatology and no dementia were randomly assigned to treatment or to no treatment. The results indicated significant differences between experimental and control groups after 4 weeks of autobiographical retrieval practice. At posttest, those in the treatment condition showed fewer depressive symptoms, less hopelessness, improved life. satisfaction, and retrieval of more specific events. The findings suggest that practice in autobiographical memory for specific events may be among the components of life review that account for its effectiveness and could be a useful tool in psychotherapy with older adults.
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Reviews findings that support the interpretation of age-related declines in recall and recognition in terms of age-related degeneration in medial-temporal lobe and frontal lobe regions in light of new evidence. The authors also consider age-related changes in forms of memory that are mediated by regions other than the medial-temporal and frontal lobe areas implicated in recall and recognition. These include memory measures of skill learning, repetition priming, and conditioning, each of which are dissociable from recall and recognition. The authors ask whether these forms of memory, and their underlying neural bases, are relatively spared in aging or whether they too are compromised together with recall and recognition. The authors also consider normal age-related changes in memory performance in relation to 2 common age-related neurological diseases, Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Parkinson's disease. They review age-comparative studies of 4 forms of long-term memory: declarative memory, skill learning, repetition priming, and conditioning. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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