The broad, long-term objective of the study is to test age and cross-cultural differences in the use of passive disengagement strategies in response to interpersonal tensions, and how these strategies are associated with reactivity to, and memory for, these events.
The specific aims of the study are to: 1) examine whether adult age differences in emotion regulation strategies used during social interactions are related to immediate affective and physiological arousal, as well as longer-term emotional and cognitive appraisals (e.g., memory for emotional experiences) after one week, and 2) test whether these differences generalize to other cultural groups (i.e., East and Southeast Asians). Younger and older adults will participant in both a lab session and follow-up phone interview. During the lab session, participants will fill out questionnaires assessing their current positive and negative affect and health conditions. They will then work in pairs on a series of tasks (i.e., solving cognitive puzzles and moral dilemmas) with a social partner whom they believe is another study participant, but is actually a member of the research team (i.e., a confederate). Participants will be randomly assigned to either a positive or negative condition. In the positive condition, the confederate will be friendly and cooperative. In the negative condition the confederate will be critical and less cooperative. During the tasks, participants will be videotaped and have their heart rate and blood pressure monitored, allowing for the assessment of hemodynamic reactivity. Afterwards, participants will complete questionnaires measuring their affective experience during the tasks, their appraisals of the task difficulty and helpfulness of the task partner and other questionnaires. One week later, participants will complete a phone interview assessing their current affective state, and their cognitive appraisals of the task and task partner, including their memory for their emotional experience during the lab tasks, memory for neutral and emotional aspects of the lab session, and how often they had thought about the lab session during the past week.

Public Health Relevance

This research addresses important questions about emotion regulation, health processes, and aging. The project evaluates the effectiveness of using passive coping strategies for reducing both immediate and longer-term distress. Because emotions are linked to physical health, understanding how people manage everyday stress and how these coping strategies change as people age will be important for identifying people at risk for poor health and well-being and for designing interventions for these individuals.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-BBBP-J (29))
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Nielsen, Lisbeth
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University of California Irvine
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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