Emotional expressivity in older and younger adults' descriptions of personal memories

Schryer, Emily, Ross, Michael, St Jacques, Peggy, Levine, Brian and Fernandes, Myra (2012) Emotional expressivity in older and younger adults' descriptions of personal memories. Experimental Aging Research, 38 (4). pp. 345-369. ISSN 0361-073X

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Abstract

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BACKGROUND/STUDY CONTEXT: According to the socioemotional selectivity theory (SST; Mather & Carstensen, 2003, Psychological Sciences, 14, 409-415), aging is associated with greater motivation to regulate emotions. The authors propose that the language people use to describe personal memories provides an index of age differences in emotional self-regulation.

METHODS

In the present article, the authors reanalyzed three previously published studies in which older (aged 60-88) and younger (aged 17-33) participants described emotional and neutral memories from their recent and distant pasts. The authors analyzed the language of the memories using Pennebaker, Booth, and Francis's (2007) Linguistic Inquiry Word Count program (Austin, TX: LIWC Inc.), which calculates the percentage of positive and negative emotion words.

RESULTS

In Studies 1 and 2, older adults used more positive emotion words than did younger adults to describe their autobiographical memories from the recent past, particularly when these were of a neutral valence. In Study 3, older adults used more positive emotion words when describing more recent memories (from the past 5 years) but not when describing distant childhood or adolescent memories.

CONCLUSION

The authors suggest that these age differences in emotional expressivity support SST, and represent an as-yet unreported age difference that may stem from differences in motivation to regulate emotion.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF0180 Experimental psychology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF0309 Consciousness. Cognition Including learning, attention, comprehension, memory, imagination, genius, intelligence, thought and thinking, psycholinguistics, mental fatigue
Depositing User: Peggy St Jacques
Date Deposited: 21 Jan 2015 07:33
Last Modified: 08 Mar 2017 08:19
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/52295

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