Theses Doctoral

Toward a Life-span Model of Emotion: How Aging Shapes our Affective Responses

Krueger, Sydney

Aging has long been associated with a (i) systematic bias in both attention and in memory towards positive stimuli compared with negative, and (ii) a gradual increase in self-reported positive affect and decrease in negative affect in daily life. The findings are considered to be paradoxical, because as people get older, the neural mechanisms responsible for cognitive functioning undergo gradual decline in structure and function. This dissertation aims to break down the mechanisms of aging that allow for the age-related changes in emotion to prevail in the midst of other ongoing aging processes. Here, I present three papers that address age-related changes in emotional experience.

Study 1 showed that age predicted feeling more positive and less negative when faced with a pandemic that disproportionality impacted older adults. Study 2 showed that while younger adults are better than older adults at regulating negative images, all participants rely on similar brain regions for accomplishing the same regulatory goals. Study 3 showed that when given the explicit goal to up or down-regulate positivity, older adults do not have an advantage over younger adults. One way to explain these results is that there are age-related distinctions between the way participants behave in lab-based studies and when they are observed in daily life, which account for inconsistencies between my three studies.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Ochsner, Kevin N.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
January 26, 2022