Use of distraction as an emotion regulation strategy in old age
Morgan, Erin Senesac
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Older adults improve in emotional well-being, and this may be a product of changes in motivation to regulate emotions or emotion regulation effectiveness. However, there are cognitive changes in old age that could make regulation harder in some contexts. The current set of studies sought to determine whether there were age-related improvements or deficits in ability to use distraction in two contexts. The first study examined use of distraction in a recovery context and found no age differences in emotional recovery when 1) using spontaneous self-distraction, 2) intentionally self-distracting, and 3) being distracted by another task. There was, however, evidence that the distracting task was the most effective way to recover from the negative induction. There was also some evidence that cognitive changes with age made it more difficult for older adults to limit negative thoughts in certain conditions. The second study contrasted use of distraction, positive reappraisal, and detached reappraisal by looking at success in terms of emotion regulation and impact on a subsequent cognitive task and later memory for the emotional stimuli. No age differences were found in emotion regulation success in this study either, but interesting differences in consequences of the three regulation strategies did emerge.