Emotional memory in old age: A fresh look at the positivity effect
Constantinescu, Alexandra Caterina
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The positivity effect in old age represents mainly a shift in attention and memory performance favouring positively valenced material, as opposed to a negativity effect occurring in youth. Even if widely cited within the literature, the theoretical background accounting for the posi- tivity effect still seems incomplete, as very few (if any) exclusion criteria exist for what does not constitute finding a positivity effect in research data. In this paper I have investigated the influence of memory type (recall or recognition), stim- ulus type (words or images) and category of emotional content (8 clusters varying on measures of valence, arousal and dominance) on memory performance, in the attempt to identify pre- cisely which are the conditions for the occurrence of the positivity effect. Additionally, several questionnaire measures were used to discern whether the positivity effect represents a form of emotion regulation, if it is in any way related to positive or negative affect, or to future time perspective. Results showed that overall, few trends found in the collected data support findings from the literature: no clear positivity effect could be replicated for the older age group (with similar results concerning the negativity effect for the younger age group), while future time perspec- tive and positive affect seemed to support general memory performance, regardless of emo- tional content. Patterns linking emotional regulation styles to memory performance in either age group were less clear.