Adult age differences in the effect of positive and negative mood on memory for pleasant and unpleasant daily events




Davidson, Heather Anne

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This study examined the influence of experimentally induced mood change on the learning and recall of a list of pleasant and unpleasant daily events in young (18-35 years) and old (58-75 years) women. Mild mood changes were induced by having 166 subjects read emotionally descriptive accounts of tragic or uplifting life experiences. For half the subjects, the mood induction was presented before they learned a list describing 15 pleasant and 15 unpleasant daily events. For the remaining subjects, the mood induction occurred before they recalled the list. Baseline memory performance was assessed by having all subjects learn and recall one list in a neutral mood. Two dependent variables were used to look at mood induced changes in level (Total recall) and content (Affective Bias = Pleasant Events - Unpleasant events) of memory recall. Only the 128 subjects who met prespecified criteria for mood change were used in these analyses. Compared to performance in the neutral mood condition, significant mood content effects were observed only for negative moods induced at time of recall. Equivalent changes in affective bias were found across age groups, however, were due to increased recall of mood congruent memory items for the young, and decreased recall of mood incongruent memory items for the old. This mood content effect contributed to an overall decrease in total recall for old participants that was not found for young subjects. Because significant group differences in baseline memory performance were found between and within age groups, analysis of covariance was employed, using baseline memory performance as a covariate. No differences in the pattern of significant effects were found. Similarly, the use of pre-experimental mood, verbal ability, and affective response to the memory stimuli as covariates did not change the results, suggesting observed age differences in mood-induced memory change could not be attributed to these factors. These findings suggest that the locus of mood congruent memory selectivity occurs at time of retrieval. Mood-related memory cuing appears to be equally effective for young and old. The observed qualitative age differences in mood congruent memory were the reverse of the predicted pattern, however, it was suggested that more effective use of mood control strategies by the older women could have produced these effects. Results also suggest that the elderly may be more sensitive to the disruptive effects of negative mood on memory processing



Memory, age factors, Mood (Psychology)