Among healthy adults, emotional life appears to generally improve with age, particularly in term of lowered negative affect and more positive interpersonal relations (Blanchard-Field, 2007;Carstensen, &Mikels, 2005). Researchers have assumed this is due to increases in specific emotional processing and emotional control skills that contribute to better self-regulation of emotions in daily life. However, research directly testing this assumption, by linking laboratory measures of emotional control and emotional processing to emotional reactivity and regulation in everyday life, is lacking. Filling this gap in our knowledge of the mechanisms underlying emotional self-regulation in older persons is the overarching theme of this application. We propose to study a large (N=150) life span sample (ages 18 to 80) in two phases. In Phase 1 we propose to administer a battery of laboratory-based measures of emotional processing and the control of emotional responses. These latter tasks will be analyzed using a dual-process model of emotion developed to aid our understanding of life-span questions about emotional control and regulation. Specifically, we hypothesize that latter-stage process control components of emotional responding improve with age, especially for negative affect. We propose to develop laboratory-based measures of emotional control using the Process Dissociation Procedure (Jacoby, 1991). These laboratory measures of emotion processing and emotion control will be examined for validity, as well as for age trends in a life-span sample. Moreover, we further hypothesize that this control component of emotional responding, assessed using laboratory tasks, will correlated with questionnaire and daily experience sampling measures of emotion regulation. As such, in Phase 2 we will include a naturalistic study of daily emotion, using experience-sampling methods, to assess emotion regulation and reactivity in everyday life. Overall, data from this study should produce findings that will increase our understanding of the basic cognitive and emotion processing skills that underlie and support successful forms of emotion regulation in everyday life among older persons. Relevant to the mission of the NIA, the proposed research will lead to a deeper and more refined understanding of emotional control processes, whether they improve with normal aging, and whether they relate to naturalistic efforts towards, and effectiveness at, emotion regulation in everyday life in older persons. The proposed research identifies basic mechanisms involved in the self-regulation of emotion, examines developmental changes in these mechanisms across the lifespan in both men and women, and systematically characterizes the importance of these mechanisms for emotional regulation over time in daily life. This work has the potential to identify operational intervention targets for optimizing emotional self-regulatory behaviors to facilitate health and positive development in older persons.

Public Health Relevance

Relevant to the mission of the NIA, the proposed research will lead to a deeper and more refined understanding of emotional control processes, whether they improve with normal aging, and whether they relate to naturalistic efforts towards, and effectiveness at, emotion regulation in everyday life in older persons. The proposed research identifies basic mechanisms involved in the self-regulation of emotion, examines developmental changes in these mechanisms across the lifespan in both men and women, and systematically characterizes the importance of these mechanisms for emotional regulation over time in daily life. This work has the potential to identify operational intervention targets for optimizing emotional self-regulatory behaviors to facilitate health and positive development in older persons.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Type
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
Project #
1R21AG040995-01
Application #
8209365
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-BBBP-L (53))
Program Officer
Nielsen, Lisbeth
Project Start
2012-07-01
Project End
2014-06-30
Budget Start
2012-07-01
Budget End
2013-06-30
Support Year
1
Fiscal Year
2012
Total Cost
$171,000
Indirect Cost
$58,500
Name
Washington University
Department
Psychology
Type
Schools of Arts and Sciences
DUNS #
068552207
City
Saint Louis
State
MO
Country
United States
Zip Code
63130