This thesis focuses on the interaction between emotion and cognition, which changes with advancing age. The goals of this project were to examine age differences in emotional modulation of long-term memory (LTM), short-term memory (STM), and emotion regulation. The main approach was to collect both behavioral and event-related potential (ERP) data in younger and older adults during emotional memory and emotion regulation tests. In this thesis it is argued that the positivity effect can be defined as a trend for adults to increasingly process positive compared to negative and/or decreasingly process negative compared to positive information with advancing age. A positivity effect was not observed consistently across current and previous studies. Nevertheless, it was shown that behavioral and neurophysiological positivity effects co-occur, as they were present in memory performance and the Late Positive Potential (LPP). In a recognition memory test, ERP old/new effects revealed that emotional salience augmented recollection and post-retrieval processes in younger adults, but the familiarity process in older adults. In a STM task, emotional faces elicited smaller P3b during retrieval, suggesting that they were better maintained during the retention interval. Emotional faces also elicited a larger N250r during retrieval, suggesting that they were better perceived as repeated. No age differences were observed in the emotional modulation of STM. Finally, the absence of age differences in the emotion regulation effects on the LPP suggests that emotion regulation is unaffected by aging. With the mean population age rising, research on the life span development of emotional processing become more and more relevant.

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J.W. van Strien (Jan)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Department of Psychology

Langeslag, S. (2010, March 18). Emotional Memory in Younger and Older Adults. Retrieved from