Changing interpretations of emotional expressions in working memory with aging.
Mok RM., Hajonides van der Meulen JE., Holmes EA., Nobre AC.
Working memory (WM) shows significant decline with age. It is interesting to note that some research has suggested age-related impairments can be reduced in tasks that involve emotion-laden stimuli. However, only a few studies have explored how WM for emotional material changes in aging. Here we developed a novel experimental task to compare and contrast how emotional material is represented in older versus younger adults. The task enabled us to separate overall WM accuracy from emotional biases in the content of affective representations in WM. We found that, in addition to overall decline in WM performance, older adults showed a systematic positivity bias in representing information in WM relative to younger adults (positivity effect). They remembered fearful faces as being less fearful than younger adults and interpreted ambiguous facial expressions more positively. The findings show that aging brings a type of positivity bias when picking up affective information for guiding future behavior. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved).