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Psychol Aging. 2006 Mar;21(1):40-8.

Selective preference in visual fixation away from negative images in old age? An eye-tracking study.

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Department of Psychology, Brandeis University, MS 062, Waltham, MA 02454, USA.

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  • Psychol Aging. 2006 Jun;21(2):221.


Recent studies have suggested that older individuals selectively forget negative information. However, findings on a positivity effect in the attention of older adults have been more mixed. In the current study, eye tracking was used to record visual fixation in nearly real-time to investigate whether older individuals show a positivity effect in their visual attention to emotional information. Young and old individuals (N = 64) viewed pairs of synthetic faces that included the same face in a nonemotional expression and in 1 of 4 emotional expressions (happiness, sadness, anger, or fear). Gaze patterns were recorded as individuals viewed the face pairs. Older adults showed an attentional preference toward happy faces and away from angry ones; the only preference shown by young adults was toward afraid faces. The age groups were not different in overall cognitive functioning, suggesting that these attentional differences are specific and motivated rather than due to general cognitive change with age.

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