The influence of mood versus relevant self-perceptions in older adults’ interest in negative health-related information.

Past research suggests that, although older adults may tend to prefer positive over negative information, they may be more willing to consider relevant negative information when in a positive affective state (Growney & Hess, 2017). However, the underlying mechanism involved in this phenomenon is unclear. In the present study, we aimed to identify this mechanism and disentangle mood and self-perceptions as potential personal resources. In Study 1, young and older adults completed either a positive or negative mood manipulation task, or a health manipulation task designed to accentuate positive or negative perceptions of one’s health-related behaviors. Participants then selected three of six health-related articles to read based on their headlines, half of which were positively worded and half of which were negative, but offered self-corrective information. Participants in the positive health condition selected more negative health-related articles to read than those in the negative health condition, with the effect being specific to older adults. Simple manipulations of mood had no effect on article selection, suggesting that older adults used their positive self-perceptions as a resource for considering negative information. In addition, endorsement of information goals mediated the relationship between manipulated health behavior perceptions and article selections for both young and older adults. Results from Study 2 demonstrate that effects are specific to situations with high-informative versus low-informative content. Our findings suggest that older adults’ willingness to focus on negative self-relevant information is bolstered by enhancing self-perceptions of self within the domain of interest. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)