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Psychol Aging. 2008 Sep;23(3):585-94. doi: 10.1037/a0013176.

Cognitive resources, valence, and memory retrieval of emotional events in older adults.

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


In 2 studies with older adults, the authors investigated the effect of executive attention resources on the retrieval of emotional public events. Participants completed a battery of working memory tasks, as a measure of executive attention, and a battery of tasks assessing memory, as well as subjective experiences associated with the retrieval of remote public events. Participants also rated the valence of each public event story. The group-rated valence of the public event stories predicted retrieval and the quality of experiences associated with them, such that emotionally arousing events elicited the highest memory rates and the richest experiences. Furthermore, positive public events elicited the highest memory rates. Executive attention moderated only the relationship between event valence and how participants' associated memories are experienced at retrieval, such that superior executive attention resources predicted richer experiences associated with positive relative to neutral and negative stories. The current results extend previous findings on the effects of aging on emotion regulation, suggesting that cognitive control resources modulate subjective experiences associated with retrieved memories for remote real life events, but not memory retrieval itself.

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