Examining Positivity Effect and Working Memory in Young-Old and Very Old Adults Using EEG-Derived Cognitive State Metrics

Res Aging. 2019 Dec;41(10):1014-1035. doi: 10.1177/0164027519865310. Epub 2019 Aug 13.


The positivity effect among older adults is a tendency to process more positive and/or less negative emotional stimuli compared to younger adults, with unknown upper age boundaries. Cognitive and emotional working memory were assessed in young-old adults (60-75) and very old adults (VOAs; 80+) to determine whether emotional working memory declines similar to the age-related decline of cognitive working memory. The moderating role of valence on the link between age and emotional working memory was examined to identify change in positivity effect with advanced age. Electroencephalography (EEG) markers of cognitive workload and engagement were obtained to test the theory of cognitive resource allocation in older adults' emotional stimuli processing. EEG recordings were collected during cognitive memory task and emotional working memory tasks that required rating emotional intensity of images pairs. Results indicate a positivity effect among VOAs that does not require additional cognitive effort and is not likely to diminish with age.

Keywords: aging; emotional working memory; positivity effect; very old adults.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Depression
  • Electroencephalography
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Middle Aged