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Positivity Effect

The age-related positivity effect refers to the empirical observation that older adults, relative to younger adults, pay more attention to and have better memory for information that is emotionally positive (e.g., a smiling face or a picture of a cute kitten) versus negative (e.g., a sad face or a picture of a corpse). The positivity effect was initially observed by researchers testing hypotheses derived from socioemotional selectivity theory, a life-span theory of motivation. According to the theory, as people grow older they perceive their time left in life as increasingly limited, which spurs them to shift their goal priorities with respect to emotion. Although younger adults prepare for their long and nebulous futures by acquiring information and expanding their horizons, older adults prioritize the here ...

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