The relationship between attentional processing of emotional information and personality: A comparison between older and younger adults

Priska Steenhaut, Ineke Demeyer, Gina Rossi, Rudi De Raedt

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Older adults have been found to focus more on positive and less on negative information compared to younger adults. Yet, results on this attentional positivity effect are inconsistent. Since personality has been related to attentional processing in younger adults, we explored whether (mal)adaptive personality traits are also linked to the occurrence of the positivity effect measured with eye tracking paradigms. We performed two studies with different experimental tasks and recruited for each study 60 community dwelling younger (aged 24–50) and 60 older (age 65–91) adults. We found some indication for a positivity effect with a free-viewing task (study 2), but not with a task measuring engagement and disengagement with emotional information (study 1). Although this effect should be interpreted with caution, it corroborates evidence that the positivity effect is more robust in situations without cognitive constraints. No evidence was found for personality traits to be related to the occurrence of the effect. Further research is needed to further clarify conditions that influence older adults’ attention for emotional information.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14(5):e0217382
Pages (from-to)e0217382
Number of pages19
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2019

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