Despite aches and pains and senior moments, older adults display more positive emotions than younger adults, say researchers. And they can pull out of a negative emotional state quicker than much younger adults.
Such emotional control may seem paradoxical, as many would expect that age would be associated with poor moods and emotional distress.
In a new study, Derek Isaacowitz, Ph.D., of Northeastern University attempts to explain the paradox.
He believes positive looking is a possible explanation: older adults may be better at regulating emotion because they tend to direct their eyes away from negative material or toward positive material. In the study, Isaacowitz presents evidence indicating that compared to younger adults, older adults prefer positive looking patterns.
Older adults also show the most positive looking when they are in bad moods — a time when younger adults show the most negative looking.
Researchers believe there is a causal relationship between looking for the good in life and mood. In the study they discovered for adults with good attentional abilities, positive looking patterns can help to regulate their mood.
So focusing on the positive seems to pay off for senior adults. Researchers also discovered that although elders prefer to focus on the positive, this perspective does not prevent them from missing other important information.