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Exp Aging Res. 2005 Apr-Jun;31(2):173-89.

Phenomenal characteristics of autobiographical memories for emotional and neutral events in older and younger adults.

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Cognitive Psychopathology Unit, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium.


The authors investigated age-related differences in phenomenal characteristics of autobiographical memories for positive, negative, and neutral events. Younger and older participants were asked to recall two specific memories of each type and then to rate their memories on several sensorial (e.g., visual, taste) and contextual (e.g., location, time) characteristics. The authors found that emotional (both positive and negative) memories contained more sensorial and contextual details than neutral memories in both age groups, whereas positive and negative memories did not differ on most dimensions. In addition, negative memories were associated with a higher intensity of positive feelings and a reduced complexity of storyline in older as compared to younger adults. These results suggest that the effect of emotion on phenomenal characteristics of autobiographical memories is similar in younger and older adults, but that older adults tend to reappraise negative events in a more positive light than younger adults.

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