4 thoughts on “Older Age is Associated with More Positive Reframing of Memories

  • October 29, 2020 at 8:53 pm
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    I would like to see a comparison with a younger population and what is considered good memories. Additionally, did any of you all question the validity of this study due to the fact that memories can be unreliable? For example, what someone thought was a good thing in the past was not a good thing. I also wonder if silver linings differ depending on the event. I wonder how people reacted after 9/11, the Great Depression, etc.

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    • October 30, 2020 at 4:35 pm
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      Hi Victoria, thank you for your comment!
      When you say “good memories” do you refer to the quality of their memories, or positive (as opposed to negative) memories? I could respond to the latter question, in this case both younger and older adults were tested and younger adults’ positive and negative mood were assessed earlier in the Spring using a test called the PANAS (positive and negative affect schedule), and while older adults showed increased positive affect and decreased negative affect, the younger adults had the opposite effect. This positivity in the Spring however, did not explain why older adults focused on more positive aspects of that time period, and so we think there may be memory system allowing increased age to hone in on more positive than negative details from a prior event. To answer to your last point, I believe that the type of event will most definitely influence the presence or absence of “silver linings” in older age, as well as the number of silver linings that are present. Our lab has consistently found that after the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013, which in some ways is similar to the 9/11 attacks, older adults’ memories focused on silver linings (e.g. the heroic actions) as opposed to the more negative details, even months after the bombing. What is interesting about our current findings, is that we are finding a similar pattern, for an event that (1) puts older adults at greater health risks, and (2) has not been resolved yet. This is interesting because memory paradigms are usually about past events, and so even if the event was highly negative in some senses it was resolved. We are currently following up with Fall surveys, and will also follow up again in Spring of 2021, it should be interesting to see what we find at these later time-points.

      I hope I have answered your questions, but feel free to follow up with more questions!

  • October 29, 2020 at 8:54 pm
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    Do you believe that the older adults in the sample use positive reframing strategies because their impending futures are not as heavily impacted by COVID-19 as those of the younger adults are in terms of factors such as finding employment and pursuing graduate studies?

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    • October 30, 2020 at 4:24 pm
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      Hi Danielle, thank you for your question! When we tested both younger and older adults earlier in the Spring, older adults did show more positivity overall and one our interpretations for those results was exactly what you suggested – that they may have overall experienced fewer disruptions to their daily lives by the ongoing pandemic, compared to the younger populations and even middle-aged adults who suddenly may have had to work from home, or attend school from home etc. In terms of the memory data however, which was collected in early June, after controlling for their affective responses from the Spring phase of the pandemic, the age-related memory effects remained. Hence, we think that there may be a memory-system at play here, that allows increased age to be more beneficial in reframing past events through a more positive lens, even when those events put the older age-group at particular health risks and the event is still not resolved. We are currently following up on this data, and we intend to further test if these positivity effects are still showing up months after the pandemic started and while we are still not sure of when this will be resolved. I hope this answers your question, but I am happy to follow up in case you have any more questions.

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