The Cognitive Control of Emotional Versus Value-Based Information in Younger and Older Adults

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We investigated age-related changes in the cognitive control of value-based and emotionally valenced information. In 2 experiments, participants completed a selectivity task in which to-be-recalled words differed in value and emotional salience. In Experiment 1, all low-valued words were emotional, and emotional valence (positive/negative) was manipulated between subjects. In Experiment 2, valence was manipulated within subjects, with the addition of a control condition in which all words (emotional and neutral) were equally valued. We found that older and younger adults recalled more neutral words than emotional words in both experiments when emotional words were low-valued, and more emotional words than neutral words in the control condition. Emotion did not interact with age in either experiment, suggesting that the impact of emotional saliency on memory is age-invariant. We also found that the number of items recalled was lower for older compared to younger adults in both experiments. Despite this, older and younger adults showed equivalent selectivity in terms of which words they recalled. These results suggest that older adults employ strategic control and use value-based information to guide memory processes equivalently to younger adults, even in the face of salient emotional information.

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