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Older people are happier and some researchers want to know why. Some psychologists believe that cognitive processes are at work remembering positive events and screening out the bad ones. That selective process may help them regulate emotions, letting them view life with a more positive filter.
“There is a lot of good theory about this age difference in happiness,” says psychologist Derek M. Iaacowitz of Northeastern University, “but much of the research does not provide direct evidence.”
Researchers, including Isaacowitz and his colleague the late Fredda Blanchard-Fields of Georgia Institute of Technology, found that when older people are shown pictures of faces or events, they tend to focus on and remember the happier ones more and the negative ones less. Other studies suggest that as people age, the deliberately seek out situations and companionship that will make them happier. It has been shown that older people will reduce their circle of friends to eliminate the negative Nancy.
The authors in their latest paper say that among the research is missing a link between these strategies and improvement of mood. “When we try to use those cognitive processes to predict change of mood, they don’t always do so,” he said. “Sometimes looking at positive pictures doesn’t make people feel better.”
“It won’t be as easy to say old people are happier. But even if they are happier on average, we still want to know in what situations does this particular strategy make this particular person with these particular qualities or strengths feel good,” concluded Isaacowitz. And wouldn’t we all like to know that?
Source: MedicalNewsToday, Perspectives on Psychological Science
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