The characteristics of a potential goal threat predict attention and information-seeking in middle-aged and older adults

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The present experiment examined to what extent features of a potential goal threat and personal characteristics affect attention and information-seeking in 124 adults aged 50–70. We manipulated two characteristics of a potential decline in future health: the amount of control people have over preventing the threat (no-control versus control) and the amount of time left before the threat will occur (short-term versus long-term). As expected, a shorter period of time left resulted in more attention being paid to threat signals and also in more information being sought. Control did not influence attention, but did have an effect on information-seeking behavior. More control resulted in more time that was taken to seek information about the potential health threat and possible ways to prevent it. Aging anxiety was a predictor of attention, and age and education predictors of information-seeking. None of the other personal factors were found to be relevant.

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