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Psychol Aging. 2008 Jun;23(2):297-306. doi: 10.1037/0882-7974.23.2.297.

Are the memories of older adults positively biased?

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Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.


There is disagreement in the literature about whether a "positivity effect" in memory performance exists in older adults. To assess the generalizability of the effect, the authors examined memory for autobiographical, picture, and word information in a group of younger (17-29 years old) and older (60-84 years old) adults. For the autobiographical memory task, the authors asked participants to produce 4 positive, 4 negative, and 4 neutral recent autobiographical memories and to recall these a week later. For the picture and word tasks, participants studied photos or words of different valences (positive, negative, neutral) and later remembered them on a free-recall test. The authors found significant correlations in memory performance, across task material, for recall of both positive and neutral valence autobiographical events, pictures, and words. When the authors examined accurate memories, they failed to find consistent evidence, across the different types of material, of a positivity effect in either age group. However, the false memory findings offer more consistent support for a positivity effect in older adults. During recall of all 3 types of material, older participants recalled more false positive than false negative memories.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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