Are age effects in positivity influenced by the valence of distractors?

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Abstract

© 2015 Ziaei et al. An age-related 'positivity' effect has been identified, in which older adults show an information-processing bias towards positive emotional items in attention and memory. In the present study, we examined this positivity bias by using a novel paradigm in which emotional and neutral distractors were presented along with emotionally valenced targets. Thirty-five older and 37 younger adults were asked during encoding to attend to emotional targets paired with distractors that were either neutral or opposite in valence to the target. Pupillary responses were recorded during initial encoding as well as a later incidental recognition task. Memory and pupillary responses for negative items were not affected by the valence of distractors, suggesting that positive distractors did not automatically attract older adults' attention while they were encoding negative targets. Additionally, the pupil dilation to negative items mediated the relation between age and positivity in memory. Overall, memory and pupillary responses provide converging support for a cognitive control account of positivity effects in late adulthood and suggest a link between attentional processes and the memory positivity effect. Copyright:

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Ziaei, M., Von Hippel, W., Henry, J. D., & Becker, S. I. (2015). Are age effects in positivity influenced by the valence of distractors? PLoS ONE, 10(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0137604

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