Aging and Emotional Processing
Similar to the behavioral research on younger adults above, there is growing research indicating that older adults also detect emotional information (e. g., in visual search tasks; Leclerc & Kensinger,
2008) and remember emotional information (e. g., remembering emotional words; Kensinger, 2008) better than nonemotional information. However, despite this emotional enhancement effect on information processing, evidence suggests that younger and older adults process positive and negative information differently. An abundance of research has examined a positivity effect in older adults (e. g., Carstensen, Isaacowitz, & Charles, 1999).
Portrait of senior adult African American woman smiling.
This research has shown that older adults are more motivated to derive emotional meaning from life and to maintain positive affect. Given these goals, older adults are more likely than younger adults to attend to the emotional meaning of information or to how information makes them feel (Carstensen & Mikels, 2005). In fact, studies show that younger adults have a tendency to attend to and remember more negative information relative to positive information, while older adults display a tendency to attend to and remember more positive information relative to negative information (e. g., Mather & Carstensen, 2005).