Emotional Aging: The Influence of Fear and Disgust Stimuli On Recognition Memory of Younger vs. Older Adults.

Creative Commons License

Boğa M. , Kapucu Eryar A.

ECP (European Congress of Psychology), Moscow, Russia, 02 July 2019 - 05 January 2020, pp.1940-1941

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Moscow
  • Country: Russia
  • Page Numbers: pp.1940-1941


The effects of emotional stimuli on memory in older adults are often addressed in terms of socio-emotional selectivity theory and the valence dimension: Older adults usually remember positive stimuli better than negative stimuli (Carstensen & Mikels, 2005) due to age related shifts in their goals and motivations. However, studies examining the effects of negative categorical emotions on the elderly are still limited (e.g., Mather & Carstensen, 2003). In younger adults, disgust-related pictures were shown to enhance memory compared to fear related ones because of disgust-related materials must be remembered to avoid contamination (Chapman et al., 2012), but it is not clear whether or not this effect could also be generalized to the older adults. Recent studies suggest that older adults experience disgust to a lesser extent than younger adults (Kunzmann, Kupperbusch, & Levenson, 2005), in contrast, with the loss of physical health, older adults may experience fear more than younger adults (Teachman & Gordon, 2009). The present study examined the effects of negative categorical stimuli (fear vs. disgust) on recognition memory of older and younger adults in two experiments. In light of previous findings we hypothesized that older adults would remember fear-related stimuli better than disgust-related stimuli, whereas younger adults would show the opposite pattern. 24 younger (age: 18-30) and 18 older adults (age: 60-72) first studied 15 happiness-, 15 disgust- and 15 fear-related photos and half an hour later were given a recognition memory test including old photos mixed with new ones. For each item, they made an old/new judgment on a confidence rating scale. Experiment 1’s results showed that age groups did not significantly differ on accuracy and response bias measures for recognition of emotional stimuli. Examination of the ROC curves suggested that older participants had a liberal response bias for both disgust and fear stimuli. Following these results, Experiment 2 was planned to include a neutral control condition, add a personal relevance dimension in the procedure and to match recognition lists for content. Findings from two experiments will be discussed within the framework of categorical vs. dimensional models of emotion.