Age-related Differences and Individual Differences of the Positivity Effect in Korean Older Adults: Focused on Attentional Process for Emotional Faces

Exp Aging Res. Jan-Feb 2021;47(1):40-56. doi: 10.1080/0361073X.2020.1833559. Epub 2020 Oct 26.


Objectives: Most prior studies on the positivity effect have been conducted in Western cultures, and research in East Asian cultures has been limited, with inconsistent findings. Herein we investigate whether the positivity effect is present in Korean older adults. Moreover, we examined individual indifferences alongside age differences in the positivity effect because not all older adults display the positivity effect.

Method: Forty older adults and 40 undergraduate students completed a series of self-report questionnaires and a dot probe task for 500 ms and 1000 ms. Next, we divided the subjects into groups who showed and did not show the positivity effect.

Results: In the dot probe task, older adults were more positive at the presentation duration of 500 ms and less negative at presentation times of 1000 ms, suggesting that the positivity effect is present in the attentional process. On the other hand, older adults who do show the positivity effect exhibit less negative affect, are less anxious, have fewer difficulties in emotion regulation, and achieve higher scores in a digit span task.

Discussion: These results suggest that the positivity effect emerges during more controlled stages of informational processing, and it is important to consider individual differences when investigating age-related differences in the positivity effect.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Attention
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Republic of Korea