The Bright Side of Life

You young folks ever wonder why we geezers seem so cheery?  The September Psychological Science explains:

Studies of the negativity bias have demonstrated that negative information has a stronger influence than positive information in a wide range of cognitive domains. At odds with this literature is extensive work now documenting emotional and motivational shifts that result in a positivity effect in older adults. … The present study … suggest[s] that neural reactivity to negative images declines linearly with age, but responding to positive images is surprisingly age invariant across most of the adult life span.

Sure your body will degrade, and perhaps your mind too, but take heart: you won’t mind so much by then.  🙂

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  • http://www.aleph.se/andart Anders Sandberg

    I wonder whether this is due to a learning effect, where slowly people learn not to react too much, or whether it is due to neural changes (something like declining receptor numbers in the amygdala)?

    There is also a bit of change in personality over time. Sanjay Srivastava, Oliver P. John, Samuel D. Gosling, Jeff Potter, Development of Personality in Early and Middle Adulthood: Set Like Plaster or Persistent Change?, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 84, No. 5. http://www.apa.org/journals/releases/psp8451041.pdf
    shows that there is quite a bit of drift of personality over time: conscientousness and agreeableness increases (at least up to 55+, where maybe some grumpiness starts to set in), while female neuroticism decreases (eventually reaching the male mean).

  • http://profile.typekey.com/sentience/ Eliezer Yudkowsky

    This explains a lot.

    I’d definitely bet on it being neural.

  • Manjira

    Thanks a lot for the post. Looking forward to comments.