Despite declines in physical and cognitive functioning, older adults report higher levels of emotional well-being (Charles & Carstensen, 2010). Motivational accounts suggest that differences in goals lead to age-related differences in affect through differences in emotion regulation behaviors, but evidence for age differences in emotion regulation strategy use is inconsistent. Emotion regulation tactics (i.e., how a strategy is implemented) may reveal greater age differences. Specifically, this study tested whether older adults rely more on positivity-seeking or negativity-avoidance tactics and whether goals alter tactic use.
An adult lifespan sample (ages 18-90, N = 211) completed three different emotion regulation tasks while being assigned to one of four goal conditions: just view, information-seeking, increase-positive, or decrease-negative. Three tactics were measured- positivity-seeking, negativity-avoidance, and negativity-seeking- by comparing time spent engaging with positive, negative, and neutral stimuli.
Goal instructions only influenced tactic use and affective outcomes in some instances. Instead, younger adults tended to consistently prefer positivity-seeking tactics and older adults preferred negativity-avoidance tactics.
Older age may be characterized more by an avoidance of negativity than engagement with positivity; manipulation of goals may not modify these age-related tendencies.

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