No Aging Bias Favoring Memory for Positive Material: Evidence From a Heterogeneity-Homogeneity List Paradigm Using Emotionally Toned Words

Some authors argue for a memory advantage of older adults for positively toned material. To investigate the contribution of selective processing to a positivity effect, the authors investigated young (n = 72, aged 18 to 31) and older (n = 72, aged 64 to 75) adults' memory for emotionally toned words using a multitrial paradigm that compares performance for heterogeneous (mixed valence) and homogeneous (single valence) lists. Regarding the age comparison, there was no evidence for an aging bias favoring positive material. Moreover, older adults' memory was less affected by emotion-based processing prioritization. Although there was no support for age-specific processing biases in memory for emotionally toned words, the findings are consistent with proposals that negative information receives processing priority in some contexts. Possible limits to the generalizability of the present findings (e.g., to nonverbal material) are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved) (from the journal abstract)