Prioritizing positivity across the adult lifespan: initial evidence for differential associations with positive and negative emotions
Prioritizing positivity (PP) has been presented as an effective mechanism to increase positive emotions and reduce negative emotions. The current study sought to explore the role of age as a moderator and identify selected situations facilitating the likelihood of routinely experiencing positive and negative emotions.
This mixed methods study consisted of 604 adults between 17 and 87 years who completed prioritizing positivity (PP) scale, positive and negative affect scale (PANAS), and demographic data. Aside from the study questionnaires, a subsample of 223 participants was presented with two open questions. 1037 responses to these two questions comprised the data for content analysis.
PP was found to be associated with increasing positive emotions in old adulthood, but not in young adulthood, and more with decreasing negative emotions in young adulthood than in old adulthood. Content analysis revealed that interpersonal interaction is critical in both increasing positive and reducing negative emotions, across age groups. However, young adults were more likely to prioritize pleasurable activities as triggers of positive emotions. Older adults focused on avoiding unfulfilling situations, due to the negative emotions that they trigger.
Integrating both qualitative and quantitative findings elucidates the role of daily routine situations and activities in the management of positive and negative emotions across the lifespan. PP was shown to be of significant emotional value for younger as well as for older adults, though for different reasons. For younger adults, PP serves as a potential ’buffer’ to balance negative emotions related to daily stresses and hassles characterizing this life stage, whereas for older adults it serves as a mechanism to boost life’s little pleasures on a daily basis based on the acknowledgment of one’s limited time ahead.
KeywordsPrioritizing positivity Positive affect Negative affect Lifespan Situations selection Emotion-regulation strategy Well-being Adulthood
This paper is dedicated to the memory of Ron Monachem, who was the first author’s research assistant and was of great assistance in the data collection. He was sadly killed in a motorcycle accident in July 2016.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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