The positivity effect is a trend for adults to increasingly process positive and/or decreasingly process negative information compared with other information with advancing age. The positivity effect has been observed with behavioral measures, such as in attention and memory tests, and with measures of neurophysiological activity, such as in amygdala activation and the late positive potential (LPP). In this study, it was investigated whether these behavioral and neurophysiological positivity effects co-occur. The electroencephalogram of younger (19–26 years) and older (65–82 years) adults was recorded while they encoded unpleasant, neutral, and pleasant pictures for retrieval in free and cued recall tests. Positivity effects occurred in the late LPP amplitude (700 –1,000 ms) and in the free recall test, with negativity biases in younger adults and no biases in older adults. The occurrence of a valence bias in the LPP was substantially but nonsignificantly correlated with the occurrence of a similar valence bias in memory in the older adults. In conclusion, neurophysiological and behavioral positivity effects appear to co-occur, a finding that awaits expansion using different neurophysiological and behavioral measures.

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Department of Psychology

Langeslag, S., & van Strien, J. (2009). Aging and emotional memory: The co-occurrence of neurophysiological and behavioral positivity effects. Emotion, 9(3), 369–377. doi:10.1037/a0015356