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Comparing negative emotion differentiation in young and older individuals: A picture-based study

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Life span theories suggest that emotional experiences become more complex (i.e., nuanced and differentiated) with age. Theoretically, the cause of this increased complexity has been proposed to be age-related changes in life contexts such as goals and daily stressors. Consequently, age may not affect emotional complexity in settings where the influence of age-specific life contexts is reduced. However, this hypothesis has yet to be explored. In the present study, we investigated one aspect of emotional complexity, namely emotion differentiation. Extending previous research, we assessed age-group differences in negative emotion differentiation between young and older adults in a controlled experimental setting. A sample of 114 young and 132 older adults rated their emotional response to 34 negative pictures according to intensity of four negative emotions. Based on these ratings, two indicators of emotion differentiation were calculated. The results revealed no significant age-group differences in negative emotion differentiation. The findings indicate stability in negative emotion differentiation with increasing age when the influence of life context is reduced. The findings are consistent with life span theories suggesting that developmental changes in emotional complexity occur largely as a result of age-related changes in life contexts rather than more stable age-related changes in individual characteristics.

TidsskriftScandinavian Journal of Psychology
Sider (fra-til)513-517
Antal sider5
StatusUdgivet - aug. 2020

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© 2020 Scandinavian Psychological Associations and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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