Seniors Accentuate the Positive

Published Online: Monday, September 1, 2003

    The older population tends to forget negative images more quickly than positive ones. Individuals under 30, however, recalled slightly more negative images on the same memory tests, according to results of a study recently published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

    The research over the past 10 years that had shown stereotypes of older people as ?depressed, lonely, and anxious? was not accurate. Rather, people over age 65 are prone to having more positive outlooks than younger people, at least until their late 80s, psychologist and lead author of the study Susan Turk Charles, PhD, said.

    During the study, participants of all ages were shown a series of images deemed positive, negative, or neutral. Later, they were tested to see how many images they could describe, and how accurately they could pick previously viewed images from a group of photographs.

    Participants younger than age 30 recalled slightly more negative images. People aged 65 to 80 remembered fewer images of all kinds, but recalled more positive images, according to the study findings. In a second study, Dr. Charles learned that older and younger subjects alike spent more time examining the negative images, but the positive images are what stayed with the seniors.

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