Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Adult Development and Aging


College of Sciences and Health Professions

First Advisor

McLennan, Conor

Subject Headings



As age increases, there is evidence that people tend to pay less attention to negative information, pay more attention to positive information, or both. There are many theoretical accounts that attempt to explain this positivity bias. In the current study, I examined positivity effects across the adult lifespan by evaluating competing predictions of two theories: Socioemotional Selectivity Theory, which is based in motivation, and Dynamic Integration Theory, which is based in capacity. Computer mouse tracking was used to examine effects across levels of Valence (negative, neutral, and positive) and Arousal (low, medium, and high) in an emotional Stroop task. Participants were instructed to identify the ink color of each word, while ignoring word meaning. With increased age, participants responded faster and more efficiently to negative words relative to neutral words. Additionally, with increased age and EC (Emotional Complexity), participants’ responses were slower and more deviated for low arousing positive words relative to neutral words, consistent with SST. Furthermore, as age and EC increased, participants had faster initiation times (ITs) for low arousing negative words relative to neutral words, consistent with SST. The results contribute to a better understanding of emotional cognitive biases across the adult lifespan.

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