Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology


College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Allard, Eric

Subject Headings

Aging, Psychology


While research in the psychology of human aging suggests that older adults are quite adept at managing negative affect, emotion regulation efficacy may depend on the discrete emotion elicited. For instance, prior research suggests older adults are more effective at dealing with emotional states that are more age-relevant/useful and lower in intensity (i.e., sadness) relative to less relevant/useful or more intense (i.e., anger). The goal of the present study was to probe this discrete emotions perspective further by addressing the relevance/intensity distinction within a broader set of negative affective states (i.e., fear and disgust, along with anger and sadness). Results revealed that participants reported relatively high levels of the intended emotion for each video, while also demonstrating significant affective recovery after the attentional refocusing task. Age differences in sadness and anger reactivity were observed with older adults reporting higher subjective reactivity relative to younger adults, with comparable recovery levels. Results from the physiological analyses did not reveal significant age differences in reactivity and recovery profiles. We discuss how the present results, at least in terms of participants’ subjective emotional experiences, suggest potential expansions to the discrete emotions approach for affective processing and regulation throughout the adult lifespan.

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