Is there an age-related positivity effect in visual attention? A comparison of two methodologies

Emotion. 2006 Aug;6(3):511-6. doi: 10.1037/1528-3542.6.3.511.


Research suggests a positivity effect in older adults' memory for emotional material, but the evidence from the attentional domain is mixed. The present study combined 2 methodologies for studying preferences in visual attention, eye tracking, and dot-probe, as younger and older adults viewed synthetic emotional faces. Eye tracking most consistently revealed a positivity effect in older adults' attention, so that older adults showed preferential looking toward happy faces and away from sad faces. Dot-probe results were less robust, but in the same direction. Methodological and theoretical implications for the study of socioemotional aging are discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Attention*
  • Choice Behavior
  • Emotions*
  • Eye Movements
  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orientation*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Reaction Time