The roles of chronological age and time perspective in memory positivity

Neuropsychol Dev Cogn B Aging Neuropsychol Cogn. 2018 Jul;25(4):598-612. doi: 10.1080/13825585.2017.1356262. Epub 2017 Jul 21.


The observation that older adults show enhanced cognition for emotionally positive information has been labeled the positivity effect (Reed, Chan, & Mikels, 2014). According to the Socioemotional Selectivity Theory (SST, Carstensen, 1991), a prominent lifespan development theory, cognition is strongly influenced by motivational goals, and these goals are impacted by subjective time perspective. Although the positivity effect is most commonly observed in older adults, as age usually co-varies with time perspective, the SST posits that time perspective, not age, is the key explanatory factor of positivity. We examined the effects of these predictors on positivity in an episodic memory task in younger and older adults and found that age, not time perspective, was a key predictor of memory positivity. Our results add to the growing literature that challenge the notion that time perspective is the driving force behind age-related differences in emotional processing and functioning.

Keywords: Aging; emotion; future time perspective; memory; positivity effect.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Emotions*
  • Humans
  • Memory*
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Neurological
  • Perception
  • Time Perception*
  • Visual Perception
  • Young Adult