March 28, 2008

Positive Emotion Regulation

In the previous post, I wrote about how individuals, as they get older, use more positive and fewer negative affect words, use fewer self references, use more future-tense and fewer past-tense verbs, and demonstrate a general pattern of increasing cognitive complexity. I learned about this research by James Pennebaker and Lori Stone through a book by Margriet Sitskoorn (Lang leven de hersenen - Long live the brain).

In the same book, Margriet Sitskoorn writes more about the positivity of older people. She explains that as people grow older they usually get more skillful at positive emotion regulation. This means that as we get older we tend to focus more on positive information and ignore negative information (with the exception of information about threats).

Because older people are, on average, better at positive emotion regulation they feel offended less easily, their negative moods last briefer, they will be less inclined to yell or call people names, they remember positive things more easily and are less impressed by negative events. Not everything gets worse with aging. Some things do get more and better.

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