Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies Program on Energy and Sustainable Development Stanford University


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Role of Motivation in the Age-Related Positivity Effect in Autobiographical Memory, The

Journal Article

Q Kennedy
M Mather
Laura L. Carstensen - Stanford University

Published by
Psychological Science, Vol. 15 no. 3, page(s) 208-214
March 2004

This study reveals that older adults have a positivity effect in long-term autobiographical memory and that a positivity bias can be induced in younger adults by a heightened motivation to regulate current emotional well-being. Three hundred nuns, ages 47 to 102 years, recalled personal information originally reported 14 years earlier. They did so under experimental conditions that repeatedly primed them to focus on their current emotional states or on their memory accuracy, or that provided no instructional focus (control condition). Both older control participants and participants who were focused on emotional states showed a tendency to remember the past more positively than they originally reported in 1987. In contrast, both younger control participants and participants who were focused on accuracy tended to remember the past more negatively than originally reported.