Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 103–123 | Cite as

Socioemotional Selectivity Theory and the Regulation of Emotion in the Second Half of Life

  • Laura L. Carstensen
  • Helene H. Fung
  • Susan T. Charles
Article

Abstract

Far more attention has been paid to emotion regulation in childhood than in adulthood and old age. However, a growing body of empirical research suggests that the emotion domain is largely spared from deleterious processes associated with aging and points instead to developmental gains in later life. By applying tenets from socioemotional selectivity theory, we attempt to explain the observed gains in terms of motivation. We argue that age is associated with increasing motivation to derive emotional meaning from life and decreasing motivation to expand one's horizons. These changes lead to age differences in social and environmental choices (consistent with antecedent emotion regulation), coping (consistent with response-focused regulation), and cognitive processing of positive and negative information (consistent with goal-directed attention and memory). Broader implications for life-span development are discussed.

motivation aging life-span development memory emotion regulation 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

REFERENCES

  1. Antonucci, T. C., & Jackson, J. S. (1987). Social support, interpersonal efficacy, and health. In Handbook of clinical gerontology (pp. 291-311). New York: Pergamon.Google Scholar
  2. Baltes, P. B. (1987). Theoretical propositions of life-span developmental psychology: On the dynamics between growth and decline. Developmental Psychology, 23, 611-626.Google Scholar
  3. Baltes, P. B. (1997). On the incomplete architecture of human ontogeny: Selection, optimization, and compensation as foundation of developmental theory. American Psychologist, 52, 366-380.Google Scholar
  4. Baltes, M. M., & Carstensen, L. L. (2002). The process of successful aging. In U. Staudinger & U. Lindenberger (Eds.), Understanding human development: dialogues with life-span psychology (pp. 81-104). Norwell, MA: Kluwer Academic.Google Scholar
  5. Bandura, A. (1982). Self-efficacy mechanisms in human agency. American Psychologist, 37, 122-147.Google Scholar
  6. Banham, K. M. (1951). Senescence and the emotions: A genetic theory. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 78, 175-183.Google Scholar
  7. Blanchard-Fields, F., Chen, Y., & Norris, L. (1997). Everyday problem solving across the adult life span: Influence of domain specificity and cognitive appraisal. Psychology and Aging, 12, 684-693.Google Scholar
  8. Blanchard-Fields, F., Jahnke, H. C., & Camp, C. (1995). Age differences in problem-solving style: The role of emotional salience. Psychology and Aging, 10, 173-180.Google Scholar
  9. Bolin, R., & Klenow, D. J. (1982-1983). Response of the elderly in disaster: An age-stratified analysis. Journal of Aging and Human Development, 16, 283-296.Google Scholar
  10. Brandtstädter, J., & Renner, G. (1990). Tenacious goal pursuit and flexible goal adjustment: Explication and age-related analysis of assimilative and accommodative strategies of coping. Psychology and Aging, 5, 58-67.Google Scholar
  11. Carstensen, L. L. (1986). Social support among the elderly: Limitations of behavioral interventions. The Behavior Therapist, 6, 111-113.Google Scholar
  12. Carstensen, L. L. (1992). Social and emotional patterns in adulthood: Support for socioemotional selectivity theory. Psychology and Aging, 7, 331-338.Google Scholar
  13. Carstensen, L. L. (1993). Motivation for social contact across the life span: A theory of socioemotional selectivity. In J. E. Jacobs (Ed.), Nebraska symposium on motivation: 1992, developmental perspectives on motivation (Vol. 40, pp. 209-254). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
  14. Carstensen, L. L., & Charles, S. T. (1999). Emotion in the second half of life. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 7, 144-149.Google Scholar
  15. Carstensen, L. L., & Fredrickson, B. (1998). Influence of HIV status and age on cognitive representations of others. Health Psychology, 17, 494-503.Google Scholar
  16. Carstensen, L. L., Gottman, J. M., & Levenson, R. W. (1995). Emotional behavior in long-term-marriage. Psychology and Aging, 10, 140-149.Google Scholar
  17. Carstensen, L. L., Isaacowitz, D. M., & Charles, S. T. (1999). Taking time seriously: A theory of socioemotional selectivity. American Psychologist, 54, 165-181.Google Scholar
  18. Carstensen, L. L., Pasupathi, M., Mayr, U., & Nesselroade, J. (2000). Emotion experience in the daily lives of older and younger adults. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 1-12.Google Scholar
  19. Carstensen, L. L., & Turk-Charles, S. (1994). The salience of emotion across the adult life span. Psychology and Aging, 9, 259-264.Google Scholar
  20. Chapell, N. L., & Badger, M. (1989). Social isolation and well-being. The Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 44, S169-S176.Google Scholar
  21. Charles, S. T., & Carstensen, L. L. (1999). The role of time in the setting of social goals across the life span. In F. Blanchard-Fields & T. Hess (Eds.), Social cognition and aging (pp. 319-342). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  22. Charles, S. T., Mather, M., & Carstensen L. L. (2003). Aging and emotional memory: The forgettable nature of negative images for older adults. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 32, 310-324.Google Scholar
  23. Charles, S. T., Reynolds, C. A., & Gatz, M. (2001). Age-related differences and change in positive and negative affect over 23 years. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 136-151.Google Scholar
  24. Cohen, S., & Wills, T. A. (1985). Stress, social support and the buffering hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 98, 310-357.Google Scholar
  25. Cumming, E., & Henry, W. H. (1961). Growing old: The process of disengagementz. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  26. Diener, E., & Lucas, R. E. (1999). Personality and subjective well-being. In D. Kahneman, E. Diener, & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology (pp. 213-229). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  27. Diener, E., & Suh, E. (1997). Measuring quality of life: Economic, social, and subjective indicators. Social Indicators Research, 40, 189-216.Google Scholar
  28. Field, D. (1981). Retrospective reports by healthy intelligent elderly people of personal events of their adult lives. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 4, 77-97.Google Scholar
  29. Folkman, S., Lazarus, R. S., Pimley, D., & Novacek, J. (1987). Age differences in stress and coping processes. Psychology and Aging, 2, 171-184.Google Scholar
  30. Fredrickson, B. L., & Carstensen, L. L. (1990). Choosing social partners: How age and anticipated endings make people more selective. Psychology and Aging, 5, 335-347.Google Scholar
  31. Fung, H. H., & Carstensen, L. L. (in press). Perceived endings increase motivation to pursue emotionally meaningful goals. Psychology and Aging.Google Scholar
  32. Fung, H. H., & Carstensen, L. L. (in press). Sending memorable messages to the old: Age differences in preferences and memory for emotionally meaningful advertisements. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.Google Scholar
  33. Fung, H. H., Carstensen, L. L., & Lang, F. R. (2001). Age-related patterns of social relationships among African-Americans and Caucasian-Americans: Implications for socioemotional selectivity across the life span. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 52, 185-206.Google Scholar
  34. Fung, H. H., Carstensen, L. L., & Lutz, M. A. (1999). Influence of time on social preferences: Implications for life-span development. Psychology and Aging, 14, 595-604.Google Scholar
  35. Fung, H. H., Lai, P., & Ng, R. (2001). Age differences in social preferences among Taiwanese and Mainland Chinese: The role of perceived Time. Psychology and Aging, 16, 351-356.Google Scholar
  36. Fung, H. H., Mcewan, A., & Kuiken, D. (2001, November). Time perspective, emotion-focused coping and spirituality. In B. G. Knight (Chair), Emotion and aging: Social cognitive approaches. Symposium conducted at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, Chicago, IL.Google Scholar
  37. George, L. K., Blazer, D. F., Winfield-Laird, I., Leaf, P. J., & Fischback, R. L. (1988). Psychiatric disorders and mental health service use in later life: Evidence from the Epidemiologic Catchment Area Program. In J. Brody & G. Maddox (Eds.), Epidemiology and Aging (pp. 189-219). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  38. Gould, O. N., & Dixon, R. A. (1993). How we spent our vacation: Collaborative storytelling by young and older adults. Psychology and Aging, 6, 93-99.Google Scholar
  39. Gross, J. J., Carstensen, L. C., Pasupathi, M., Tsai, J., Götestam-Skorpen, K., & Hsu, A. Y. C. (1997). Emotion and aging: Experience, expression, and control. Psychology and Aging, 12, 590-599.Google Scholar
  40. Hasher, J., Zacks, R. T., & May, C. P. (1999). Inhibitory control, circadian arousal, and age. In D. Gopher & A. Koriat (Eds.), Attention and performance XVII. Cognitive regulation of performance: Interaction of theory and application (pp. 653-675). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  41. Hashtroudi, S., Johnson, M. K., & Chrosniak, L. D. (1990). Aging and qualitative characteristics of memories for perceived and imagined complex events. Psychology and Aging, 5, 119-126.Google Scholar
  42. Herzog, A. R., & Rodgers, W. L. (1981). Age and satisfaction: Data from several large surveys. Research on Aging, 3, 142-165.Google Scholar
  43. Heckhausen, J., & Kreuger, J. (1993). Developmental expectations for the self and most other people: Age grading in three functions of social comparison. Developmental Psychology, 29, 539-548.Google Scholar
  44. Heckhausen, J., & Schulz, R. (1995). A life-span theory of control. Psychological Review, 102, 284-304.Google Scholar
  45. Hess, T. M., Bolstad, C. A., Woodburn, S. M., & Auman, C. (1999). Trait diagnosticity versus behavior consistency as determinants of impression change in adulthood. Psychology and Aging, 14, 77-89.Google Scholar
  46. Hess, T. M., & Pullen, S. M. (1994). Adult age difference in informational biases during impression formation. Psychology and Aging, 9, 237-250.Google Scholar
  47. Isaacowitz, D. M., Charles, S. T., & Carstensen, L. L. (2000). Emotion and cognition. In F. I. M. Craik & T. A. Salthouse (Eds.), Handbook of aging and cognition (2nd ed., pp. 593-632). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  48. Isaacowitz, D. M., Smith, T., & Carstensen, L. L. (in press). Socioemotional selectivity in trauma survivors in old age. Ageing International.Google Scholar
  49. Jennings, J. M., & Jacoby, L. L. (1993). Automatic versus intentional uses of memory: Aging, attention, and control. Psychology and Aging, 8, 283-293.Google Scholar
  50. Johnson, M. K., & Sherman, S. J. (1990). Constructing and reconstructing the past and the future in the present. In E. T. Higgins & R. M. Sorrentino (Eds.), Handbook of motivation and cognition: Foundations of social behavior (pp. 482-526). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  51. Kausar, R., & Akram, M. (1999). Cognitive appraisal and coping of patients with terminal versus nonterminal diseases. Journal of Behavioral Science, 9, 13-28.Google Scholar
  52. Kennedy, Q., Fung, H., & Carstensen, L. L. (2001). Aging, time estimation and emotion: A multidisciplinary exploration. In S. H. McFadden & R. C. Atchley (Eds.), Aging and the meaning of time (pp. 51-74). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  53. Kochanska, G., Murray, K., & Harlan, E. (2000). Effortful control in early childhood: Continuity and change, antecedents, and implications for social development. Developmental Psychology, 36, 220-232.Google Scholar
  54. Labouvie-Vief, G., & Blanchard-Fields, F. (1982). Cognitive ageing and psychological growth. Ageing and Society, 2, 183-209.Google Scholar
  55. Labouvie-Vief, G., DeVoe, M., & Bulka, D. (1989). Speaking about feelings: Conceptions of emotion across the lifespan. Psychology and Aging, 4, 425-437.Google Scholar
  56. Lang, F. R. (2000). Endings and continuity of social relationships: Maximizing intrinsic benefits within personal networks when feeling near to death? Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 17, 157-184.Google Scholar
  57. Lang, F. R., & Carstensen, L. L. (1994). Close emotional relationships in late life: Further support for proactive aging in the social domain. Psychology and Aging, 9, 315-324.Google Scholar
  58. Lang, F. R., & Carstensen, L. L. (2002). Time counts: Future time perspective, goals, and social relationships. Psychology and Aging, 17, 125-139.Google Scholar
  59. Lang, F. R., Staudinger, U. M., & Carstensen, L. L. (1998). Perspectives on socioemotional selectivity in late life: How personality and social context do (and do not) make a difference. The Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 53, P21-P30.Google Scholar
  60. Larson, J. T., McGraw, A. P., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2001). Can people feel happy and sad at the same time?. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 684-696.Google Scholar
  61. Lawton, M. P., Kleban, M. H., Rajagopal, D., & Dean, J. (1992). The dimensions of affective experience in three age groups. Psychology and Aging, 7, 171-184.Google Scholar
  62. Lee, D. J., & Markides, K. S. (1990). Activity and mortality among aged persons over an eight-year period. The Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 45, S39-S42.Google Scholar
  63. Levenson, R. W., Carstensen, L. L., & Friesen, W. V., & Ekman, P. (1991). Emotion, physiology, and expression in old age. Psychology and Aging, 6, 28-35.Google Scholar
  64. Levenson, R. W., Carstensen, L. L., & Gottman, J. M. (1994). Influence of age and gender on affect, physiology, and their interrelations: A study of long-term marriages. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 56-68.Google Scholar
  65. Levine, L. J., & Bluck, S. (1997). Experienced and remembered emotional intensity in older adults. Psychology and Aging, 12, 514-523.Google Scholar
  66. Lowenthal, M., & Haven, C. (1968). Interaction and adaptation: Intimacy as a critical variable. In B. L. Neugarten (Ed.), Middle age and aging: A reader in social psychology (pp. 390-400). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  67. Mather, M., & Carstensen, L. L. (in press). Aging and attentional biases for emotional faces. Psychological Science.Google Scholar
  68. Mather, M., & Johnson, M. K. (2000). Choice-supportive source monitoring: Do our decisions seem better to us as we age? Psychology and Aging, 15, 596-606.Google Scholar
  69. Mroczek, D. K., & Kolarz, C. M. (1998). The effect of age on positive and negative affect: A developmental perspective on happiness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 1333-1349.Google Scholar
  70. Palmore, E. (1981). Social patterns in normal aging: Findings from the Duke Longitudinal Study. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  71. Pasupathi, M., & Carstensen, L. L. (in press). Age and emotional experience during mutual reminiscing. Psychology and Aging.Google Scholar
  72. Powers, C. B., Wisocki, P. A., & Whitbourne, S. K. (1992). Age differences and correlates of worrying in youth and elderly adults. The Gerontologist, 32, 82-88.Google Scholar
  73. Quackenbush, S. W., & Barnett, M. A. (2001). Recollection and evaluation of critical experiences in moral development: A cross-sectional examination. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 23, 55-64.Google Scholar
  74. Regier, D. A., Boyd, H. J., Burke, J. D., Rae, D. S., Myers, J. K., Kramer, M., et al. (1988). One-month prevalence of mental disorders in the United States. Archives of General Psychiatry, 45, 977-986.Google Scholar
  75. Roberts, G. (1999). Age effects and health appraisal: A meta-analysis. The Journals of Gerontology, 54, S24-S30.Google Scholar
  76. Rook, K. S. (2001). Emotional health and positive versus negative social exchanges: A daily dairy analysis. Applied Developmental Science, 5, 86-97.Google Scholar
  77. Rothbart, M. K. (1994). Emotional development: Changes in reactivity and self-regulation. In P. Ekman & R. J. Davidson (Eds.), The nature of emotion: Fundamental questions (pp. 369-372). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  78. Rothbart, M. K., Ahadi, S. A., & Evans, D. E. (2000). Temperament and personality: Origins and outcomes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(1), 122-135.Google Scholar
  79. Schieman, S. (1999). Age and anger. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 40, 273-289.Google Scholar
  80. Schulkind, M. D., Hennis, L. K., & Rubin, D. C. (1999). Music, emotion and autobiographical memory: They're playing your song. Memory and Cognition, 27, 948-955.Google Scholar
  81. Shields, A., Ryan, R. M., & Cicchetti, D. (2001). Narrative representations of caregivers and emotion dysregulation as predictors of maltreated children's rejection by peers. Developmental Psychology, 37, 321-337.Google Scholar
  82. Suddendorf, T., & Corballis, M. C. (1997). Mental time travel and the evolution of the human mind. Genetic, Social and General Psychology Monographs, 123, 133-167.Google Scholar
  83. Taylor, S. E., Kemeny, M. E., Reed, G. M., Bower, J. E., & Gruenewald, T. L. (2000). Psychological resources, positive illusions, and health. American Psychologist, 55, 99-109.Google Scholar
  84. Weissman, M., Leaf, P. J., Bruce, M. L., & Florio, L. P. (1988). The epidemiology of dysthymia in five communities: Rates, risks, comorbidity and treatment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 145, 815-819.Google Scholar
  85. Wohlwill, J. F. (1970). The age variable in psychological research Psychological Review, 77, 49-6Google Scholar
  86. Zajonc, R. B. (1984). On the primacy of affect. American Psychologist, 39, 117-123.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura L. Carstensen
    • 1
  • Helene H. Fung
    • 1
  • Susan T. Charles
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyStanford UniversityStanford

Personalised recommendations