Author

Edie Sanders

Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Psychology

Abstract

Many changes occur with age, including changes in emotion regulation and memory. The Socioemotional Selectivity Theory (Carstensen, 2006) posits that older adults tend to be more concerned with emotionally meaningful goals and therefore experience what is called the “positivity effect” with age. The positivity effect results in a bias in attention and memory towards positive stimuli over neutral and negative stimuli. Age-related changes also arise in memory monitoring, specifically in Judgments of Learning (JOLs), when individuals learn emotional words. We examined the presence of the positivity effect in memory and JOLs for positive, negative, and neutral words. Younger and older adults (N=83) viewed words of each valence category and made immediate JOLs, followed by a two-alternative forced choice recognition memory task. The positivity effect was not supported in number correct on the memory task, but it was suggested by the number of positive lures incorrectly identified by older adults relative to that of younger adults. Importantly, JOL ratings suggested a positivity bias in older adults and an emotional salience effect in younger adults. Results of the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) also provided support for the positivity effect in affect scores for older adults relative to younger adults. These results strongly suggest that the positivity effect extends beyond performance on a memory task to metacognition and emotion.

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