Emotion in Later Life

  title={Emotion in Later Life},
  author={M. Powell Lawton},
  journal={Current Directions in Psychological Science},
  pages={120 - 123}
  • M. Lawton
  • Published 1 August 2001
  • Psychology
  • Current Directions in Psychological Science
Recent research investigating emotion in old age suggests that autonomic responsiveness diminishes with age. The experiential aspects of emotion, however, show less marked age differences. Despite the health-related and social losses of old age, research findings on changes in the frequency and valence of affect in old age are inconsistent, and those studies that have reported changes have found only small ones. Studies of emotion regulation have found evidence of increasing self-regulatory… 
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Effective regulation of the experience and expression of negative affect in old age.
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The experience of anger and sadness in everyday problems impacts age differences in emotion regulation.
The authors examined regulation of the discrete emotions anger and sadness in adolescents through older adults in the context of describing everyday problem situations to suggest that at least part of the reason why older adults use fewer proactive emotion-regulation strategies is their decreased experience of anger.
Emotional Development across Adulthood: Differential Age-Related Emotional Reactivity and Emotion Regulation in a Negative Mood Induction Procedure
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Age-related Changes In Emotion Regulation Using A Startle Modulation Paradigm
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Greater sadness reactivity in late life.
Results indicated that older adults reported greater sadness in response to all films and greater physiological responses to the sadness film than did the younger age groups, supporting the notion that sadness reactivity is heightened with age.
Age Differences in Positive Feelings and Their Expression
Different response systems were examined and conscientiousness was associated with individual and age-related differences in positive feelings, pointing to the potential explanatory role of self-regulatory skills in the experience of positive emotions.
Interpretation of emotionally ambiguous faces in older adults.
Investigation of the effect of normal aging on the interpretation of ambiguous emotional facial expressions using a signal detection approach found that older adults were significantly less likely than younger adults to report the presence of anger in angry-happy face blends.
[Emotion regulation and the cognitive decline in aging: beyond the paradox].
Elderly people tend to use more frequently situation selection strategies, such as avoiding potentially negative situations, while their ability to regulate an emotion using cognitive reappraisal, a strategy drawing heavily on executive resources, appears less efficient than in younger people.
Influences of age on emotional reactivity during picture processing.
Self-report findings indicated that older, compared with younger, adults reported greater overall pleasure and arousal, and age differences suggest that age-related changes in emotion are not unitary across response systems.


The salience of emotion across the adult life span.
Results suggest that the relative salience of emotion increases linearly with age and cohort, and within the framework of cognitive theories of adult development and socioemotional selectivity theory.
Emotional experience in younger and older adults.
The findings indicate that emotion is more important in the lives of women and that they may engage in more emotional masking than men.
Dimensions of affective experience in three age groups.
The dimensions by which adults of differing ages experience emotion were studied and elders were higher in emotional control, mood stability, and emotional maturity through moderation and leveling of positive affect and lower in surgency, psychophysiological responsiveness, and sensation seeking.
Emotion, physiology, and expression in old age.
Emotion-specific autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity was studied in 20 elderly people (age 71-83 years, M = 77) who followed muscle-by-muscle instructions for constructing facial prototypes of
Emotion communication skills in young, middle-aged, and older women.
Decoding accuracy was found to vary with age congruence between encoder and decoder, suggesting a decoding advantage accruing through social contact with like-aged peers and trends suggesting that the affective expressions of older subjects may be harder to decode owing to age-related structural changes in the face.
Emotion and aging: experience, expression, and control.
Compared with younger participants, older participants reported fewer negative emotional experiences and greater emotional control, which is interpreted in terms of increasingly competent emotion regulation across the life span.
Handbook of emotion, adult development, and aging
Theoretical perspectives - emotions and the aging brain - regrets and remedies, J. Panksepp and A. Miller, differential emotions theory and emotional development in adulthood and later life, L.M.
Emotion and Control: A Life-Span Perspective
Emotions and affect arc a pervasive ele ment of everyday life. The experience, expression. and perceptio n of mood and emotio n are cenlml features o f human ex iste nce. Not surprisingly. the
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Overall, older people chose familiar partners most frequently; yet when social endings were salient, younger people patterned the preferences of the elderly, suggesting that social partner selectivity functions to conserve emotion resources in the face of limited future opportunities.
Longitudinal analyses of psychological well-being in a national sample: stability of mean levels.
Older participants in the study tended to be lower in both Positive and Negative Affect, but longitudinal changes in these two subscales were not found, and Total Well-Being showed no significant age, birth cohort, or time effects in any of the analyses.