Culture, attitudes, and emotional memory: A complicated relationship

2014 IJRSP – Volume 3 Issue 5


Chung, Christie*
Mills College, USA (

Yip, Abby Pui Wang
Mills College, USA (

Lin, Ziyong
Mills College, USA (


Older adults often remember less negative information than young adults, constituting a positivity effect. In the present study, we examined the effect of culture on this age-related positivity effect and the influence of view of aging on emotional memory by examining culture in two different ways: 1) geographical location and 2) ethnic grouping. We assessed emotional memory recall using an emotional memory picture task (Chung, 2010) and view of aging using a View of Aging Task (Levy & Langer, 1994). Our results showed that Chinese older adults in China held the most positive view of aging, followed by older adults in Hong Kong, and then Chinese immigrants and Caucasian older adults in the US. Emotional memory performance, however, did not follow the same cultural trajectory. Caucasian US older adults were the only group that recalled more positive pictures than their younger counterparts. All other older groups of East Asian origin showed a more balanced emotional recall rate of positive and negative pictures. These findings not only demonstrate the decoupling of view of aging and emotional memory, but more importantly, suggest that culture as defined by geographical location and ethnic grouping indeed yield different findings in attitudes and cognition – immigrants in the US held similar views of aging to Caucasian US participants (same location), but was in fact more similar in performance to the other two Asian groups in emotional memory recall (same ethnic grouping).

Keywords: positivity effect; culture; emotional memory; view of aging



*Corresponding Author