Hot Topic

Emotion and Aging

A growing body of evidence suggests that basic emotions as well as more complex emotional skills (emotion recognition, emotion regulation) have important functions across the entire lifespan. This hot topic is focused on two sets of questions. The first set is related to recent theoretical and empirical work interested in emotion and aging. How do emotional skills change during adulthood and old age? What factors can explain the complex pattern of age-related gains and losses? How can we differentiate between age-related changes as they occur in normal aging and age-related changes that occur in the context of diseases? What are the implications of normative and pathological age-related changes for the aging individual and his or her immediate and broader social context? A second set of questions refers to the dynamic between emotional and motivational processes and how this dynamic may change with age. In many contexts, emotion and motivation mutually influence each other and together motivate adaptive goal-directed behavior, but there may also be contexts in which emotion and motivation (e.g., in the sense of cognitive representations of goals) are conflicting and in need of regulation. Taken together, the two symposia will highlight current research shedding light on the hot topics in emotional and motivational aging.


Robert W. Levenson
Robert W. Levenson
University of California, Berkeley/USA

„Emotion and Aging: Two roads diverged“

Although most aspects of cognitive and physical functioning show steady patterns of decline with age, changes in emotional functioning are less uniform. In this talk, I will discuss findings from our laboratory studies of particular aspects of emotional functioning (reactivity, regulation, and recognition) in individuals who travel the road of normal aging and those who travel the road of dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases. Our research on normal aging indicates that emotional functioning changes in complex ways, with areas of preserved functioning, areas of loss, and areas of actual gain. Our research on dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases indicates that quite different patterns of change in social and emotional functioning occur depending on the particular disorder and the associated pattern of neurodegeneration. For each road, I will also briefly consider the impact that these changes in socioemotional functioning have for social partners, focusing on spouses in normal aging and caregivers in dementia and neurodegenerative disease.

Invited Symposia

Emotion: Life-span developmental perspectives
Tania Singer, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig
Derek Isaacowitz, Northeastern University, Boston
Ute Kunzmann, University of Leipzig
Michaela Riediger, Max Planck Institue for Human Develoment, Berlin
Susanne Scheibe, University of Groningen
Daniel Grühn, North Carolina State University, Raleigh
Robert W. Levenson (discussant)

Links between emotion and motivation across the adult lifespan
Carsten Wrosch, Concordia University, Montreal
Thomas M. Hess, North Carolina State University, Raleigh
Veronika Brandstätter, University of Zürich
Alexandra M. Freund, University of Zürich
Ursula M. Staudinger, Columbia University, New York (discussant)