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Does Looking at the Positive Mean Feeling Good? Age and Individual Differences Matter



In this paper, we link age differences in gaze patterns toward emotional stimuli to later mood outcomes. While one might think that looking at more positive emotional material leads to better moods, and looking at more negative material leads to worse moods, it turns out that links between emotional looking and mood depend on age as well as individual differences. Though older people can feel good by looking more at positive material, in some cases young adults actually feel better by engaging visually with the negative. These age effects are further moderated by attentional abilities. Such findings suggest that different age groups may use looking differently, and this may reflect their preferences for using distinct emotion regulatory strategies. This work also serves as a reminder that regulatory efforts are not always successful at improving mood.