You Never Lose
You Never Lose the Ages You’ve Been:
Affective Perspective Taking in Older Adults
Empirical research suggests that a preference for positive emotional information may
emerge with age (Charles, Mather, & Carstensen, 2003; Issacowitz, Wadlinger, Goren, &
Wilson, 2006; Kennedy, Mather, & Carstensen, 2003; Mather & Carstensen, 2004; Mikels,
Larkin, Reuter-Lorenz, & Cartensen, 2005; Schlagman, Schulz, & Kvavilashvili, 2006).
preference stands in contrast to findings from research that suggests that negative stimuli hold
special attention-grabbing properties in younger adults (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer, &
Vohs, 2001; Cacioppo, Gardner, & Berntson, 1997; see also Wood & Kisley, 2006).
developmental shift has recently been coined the “positivity effect” and has been observed in
autobiographical memory, long-term memory, working memory, and attention (for review see
Carstensen, Mikels, & Mather, 2006).
Although the phenomenon is evident in multiple domains,
little is known about the causes of the shift.
Does the shift reflect developmental changes rooted
in motivation? Or could it be the serendipitous result of neural or cognitive decline? In this paper
we explore whether older adults display an implicit awareness of an age-related preference for
positive over negative information.
To address this question, in the present study we asked younger and older adults to