Aging On a Positive Note
23. March 2007Jane Markel
You’re not getting older, you’re getting better, and there’s new research to prove it. A study from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs shows that not everything goes downhill when it comes to aging. In fact, older adults exhibit a better balance than younger adults in the way they process emotional information from the environment. That’s according to research completed by Michael Kisley, Assistant Professor of Psychology, along with his collaborator, Stacey Wood from Scripps College and the assistance of UCCS students. More than 150 participants viewed images determined to be positive (a bowl of chocolate ice cream, pretty sunsets), neutral (a chair, a fork) and negative (a dead cat in the road, a car crash). Viewing images for only seconds, participants clicked a mouse to categorize these photographs while their brain reaction was monitored. “Whereas younger adults often pay more attention to emotionally negative information, older adults tend to assign equal importance to emotionally positive information,” explained Kisley. “Like previous studies, we found that younger adults, 18-25, tended to pay more attention to emotionally negative images than to positive ones,” Kisley said. “But the new finding from our study was that the older adults, ages 55 plus, didn’t show this so-called ‘negative bias.’ Instead they tended to show a better balance between paying attention to both negative and positive images.” Kisley and Wood conducted a follow-up study to be published in Psychological Science in fall 2007 in which they found that the change in emotional priorities gradually develops from age 18 to 80.