And all things being equal, older people direct their cognitive resources,
like attention and memory, to positive information more than negative.
If we show older, middle-aged, younger people images, like the ones you see on the screen,
and we later ask them to recall all the images that they can,
older people, but not younger people, remember more positive images than negative images.
We've asked older and younger people to view faces in laboratory studies, some frowning, some smiling.
Older people look toward the smiling faces and away from the frowning, angry faces.
In day-to-day life, this translates into greater enjoyment and satisfaction.
But as social scientists, we continue to ask about possible alternatives.
We've said, well, maybe older people report more positive emotions because they're cognitively impaired.
We've said, could it be that positive emotions are simply easier to process than negative emotions,
and so you switch to the positive emotions?
Maybe our neural centers in our brain are degraded such that we're unable to process negative emotions anymore.
But that's not the case. The most mentally sharp older adults are the ones who show this positivity effect the most.
And under conditions where it really matters, older people do process the negative information just as well as the positive information.