Researchers from Georgia Tech's School of Psychology's Adult Development lab examined how younger and older adults who were induced into a positive or negative mood interpreted the actions of others. They found that older adults who were induced into a negative mood were more likely than younger adults to attribute the actions of an individual to that person alone, rather than considering that situational factors may be affecting their actions. This correspondence bias suggests that, when in a negative mood, older adults are more internally focused on maintaining an emotionally satisfying experience and thus have difficulty processing external information.
"It may be the case that older adults in a negative mood state are more motivated to downgrade their negative emotions and, thus, not allocate enough processing time to focus on the details of the situation. So this needs to be taken into consideration when imparting information to older adults," said Fredda Blanchard-Fields, professor in Georgia Tech's School of Psychology.
One situation where this knowledge might be useful is when a doctor has to tell a patient they have a serious illness.
"You want to give them time to deal with the fact that they have the illness, to deal with the emotions before you have them make a decision on how to treat it," she said.
That's very different from the way young people handle information. When in a negative mood, young adults were more likely to consider situational factors when assessing an individual's behavior, the study found. Younger adults may not have the same motivational tendencies and thus can t
Contact: David Terraso
Georgia Institute of Technology