Laura L. Carstensen's research while affiliated with Stanford University and other places

Publications (159)

Article
The present study examined the causal role of time horizons in age differences in worker motivation. Based on socioemotional selectivity theory (SST), we hypothesized that under unspecified time horizons, older workers prefer to engage in emotionally meaningful work activities more so than younger workers. We further hypothesized that when time hor...
Article
As the number of older adults increases, disproportionate impacts of climate change pose great challenges to healthy longevity. These inequities will be compounded in future generations. Large-scale climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies require often unavailable institutional, financial, and technical support. We need to quickly devel...
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The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the economic and social wellbeing of communities worldwide. Certain groups have been disproportionately impacted by the strain of the pandemic, such as classical musicians. The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly harmed the classical music industry, silencing the world's concert halls and theaters. In an industry char...
Article
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Workplace prosocial activities, such as providing unpaid assistance to colleagues, has been linked to better well-being. However, little is known about how these associations unfold in daily life. This study examines how prosocial activities at work are associated with daily well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. A sample of 22 employees (aged 22...
Article
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In response to increasing life expectancies and urbanization, initiatives for age-friendly cities seek to facilitate active and healthy aging by strengthening supports and services for older people. While laudable, these efforts typically neglect early-life exposures that influence long-term well-being. With a focus on the urban physical environmen...
Article
Socioemotional selectivity theory (SST) is a theory of life-span development grounded in the uniquely human ability to monitor time. SST maintains that the approach of endings—whether due to aging or other endings such as geographic relocations and severe illness—elicits motivational changes in which emotionally meaningful goals are prioritized ove...
Article
A new study provides broad evidence that older people are more generous than their younger counterparts, but that they favor local over global giving. In light of population aging and the relative wealth controlled by older citizens, it is important to identify the factors that contribute to these differences.
Article
Meaningful endings lead people to experience mixed emotions, but it is unclear why. We hypothesized that it is in part because meaningful endings lead people to reminisce on good times. In Study 1, college students who took part in our study on their graduation day (vs. a typical day) reported having spent more time that day reminiscing on good tim...
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Background Gender differences in life expectancy and societal roles have implications for a country's capacity to support its older population. Specifically, the longevity risk associated with longer life expectancy of women, with greater risk of morbidity entails different needs between genders in older age. We aimed to quantify gender differences...
Article
The tremendous heterogeneity in functional and demographic characteristics of the over-65 age group presents challenges to effective marketing and public-health communications. Messages grounded on tacit assumptions that older people are frail, incompetent, and needy risk being overlooked by most of the older population; on the other hand, ignoring...
Article
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Socioemotional selectivity theory posits that goals change as a function of perceived time-horizons. As people age and time-horizons grow increasingly limited, people prioritize goals realized in the present over goals that will be realized in the distant future. Because goals that are emotionally meaningful are realized in their pursuit SST predic...
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Socioemotional selectivity theory maintains that goal prioritization differs across adulthood as a function of future time horizons. To prepare for a long and nebulous future, young adults prioritize learning and exploration over emotional meaning. Relieved from the burden to prepare, older adults prioritize emotionally meaningful goals. In the con...
Article
The COVID-19 pandemic is creating unprecedented, sustained, and unavoidable stress for the entire population, and older people are facing particularly heightened risk of contracting the virus and suffering severe complications, including death. The present study was conducted when the pandemic was spreading exponentially in the United States. To ad...
Preprint
p>The COVID-19 pandemic is creating unprecedented, sustained, and unavoidable stress for the entire population, with older people facing particularly heightened risk of contracting the virus and suffering severe complications including death. The present study was conducted when the pandemic was spreading exponentially in the United States. To addr...
Article
Despite abundant evidence for the benefits of physical activity on aging trajectories, older Americans remain largely inactive. The present study was designed to examine age differences in responsiveness to financial incentives to increase walking. Grounded in socioemotional selectivity theory, we examined the effectiveness of financial incentives...
Article
Part of the challenge young people face when preparing for lifelong financial security is visualizing the far-off future. Age-progression technology has been shown to motivate young people to save for retirement. The current study applied age progression for motivating socioeconomically diverse community college students as part of a college planni...
Preprint
This chapter considers ways that perceived time-both at the level of seconds and lifetimes-may influence adult development. Research suggests that age-related impairments in divided attention contribute to older adults' underestimation of short-term duration judgments. A separate literature suggests that perceived constraints on future time leads t...
Article
Cambridge Core - Cognition - The Cambridge Handbook of Cognitive Aging - edited by Ayanna K. Thomas
Poster
Full-text available
Socioemotional selectivity theory posits that emotionally meaningful goals such as spending precious time with close family and friends are prioritized in late life as a function of limited future time horizons. Research documents that older individuals include a smaller proportion of peripheral social partners than younger individuals in their soc...
Poster
Workforces today are more age-diverse than ever before. Despite widespread beliefs that older workers are less productive than younger workers, when productivity is measured at the team level, the presence of older workers appears to positively contribute to productivity. Underlying reasons for this finding have been poorly understood. Socioemotion...
Article
Psychological research on regret has focused mostly on the negative emotions associated with troubling past decisions. Because aging is associated with a preference for positive information in attention and memory, investigation into positive emotions elicited by regrets may provide insights into adult developmental changes in subjective experience...
Article
Background and objectives: Recent research suggests that working longer may be protective of cognitive functioning in later life, especially for workers in low complexity jobs. As postretirement work becomes increasingly popular, it is important to understand how various retirement pathways influence cognitive function. The present study examines...
Article
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Thirty years ago, the subfields of emotion and cognition operated relatively independently and the associated science reflected the tacit view that they were distinct constructs. Today, questions about the integration of cognition and emotion are among the most interesting questions in the field. I offer a personal view of the key changes that fuel...
Presentation
How we spend our time has important implications for well-being. Socioemotional selectivity theory postulates that the prioritization of exploratory vs. emotion-regulatory goals shifts across the life span as the finitude of life becomes more salient (Carstensen, 2006). Thus, developmental changes in motivational focus may influence younger and old...
Presentation
To capitalize on the resource represented in older populations requires a deeper understanding of the motivational processes that guide people’s choice of activities. We instructed participants aged 19–87 to imagine that they had a day with 8 hours free from prior commitments and choose activities they prefer from a list of 24 emotionally meaningfu...
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The articles in the present volume enhance the understanding of the role of perceived time in human development. Together, they point to the multifaceted nature of perceived future time and the associations different aspects of time have with goals, preferences, and well-being. Specifically, the articles showcase antecedents and consequences of per...
Article
Socioemotional selectivity theory (SST) is a life-span theory of motivation grounded in the subjective awareness of human mortality. The cardinal postulate is that time horizons shape the relative priority placed on emotionally meaningful and knowledge-seeking goals. Because goals are always set in temporal contexts, and time left in life is invers...
Article
Financial fraud is a societal problem for adults of all ages, but financial losses are especially damaging to older adults who typically live on fixed incomes and have less time to recoup losses. Persuasion tactics used by fraud perpetrators often elicit high levels of emotional arousal; thus, studying emotional arousal may help to identify the con...
Article
Relative to younger adults, older adults attend to and remember positive information more than negative information. This shift from a negativity bias in younger age to a preference for positive information in later life is termed the ‘positivity effect.’ Based on nearly two decades of research and recent evidence from neuroscience, we argue that t...
Article
Edwin Lorenz Carstensen was son to Opal and August, husband to Pam, father to five, grandfather to seven, and great-grandfather to two. Each and every one of us, along with many more extended family members, feel extraordinarily privileged to be associated with him. We fully appreciate that Ed Carstensen was a giant in his scientific discipline. Kn...
Chapter
Societies exert profound influences on the developmental paths of their citizens. Whether engaged or disengaged, satisfied or dissatisfied, socially embedded or lonely, healthy or disabled; whether people feel in control of their lives or view themselves as victims of circumstance, all are intrinsically tied to broad sociocultural contexts in which...
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The catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT_Val158Met) genetic polymorphism has been linked to variation in affective well-being. Compared with Val carriers, Met carriers experience lower affective well-being. In parallel, research on aging and affective experience finds that younger adults experience poorer affective well-being than older adults. This...
Article
We examined the effects of both emotional arousal (excitement, anger, neutral) and age (older adults, younger adults) on ratings of advertisement credulity and purchase intention. Inducing both high-arousal positive and high-arousal negative emotions in older adults increased their susceptibility to misleading advertisements, leading them to indica...
Article
Emotional experience and regulation continue to change in a number of ways through adulthood. In many aspects, such changes appear to benefit emotional functioning. The aim of this article is to review the literature on adult development about emotion, including empirical findings and conceptual accounts of age differences in functioning. We focus...
Article
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Positively framed messages seem to promote walking in older adults better than negatively framed messages. This study targeted elderly people in communities unfavorable to walking. Walking was measured with pedometers during baseline (1 week) and intervention (4 weeks). Participants (n = 74) were informed about either the benefits of walking or the...
Article
Purpose: This study compares nine devices for accuracy in 24-hour activity measurement. Methods: Adults (N=40, 47% male) wore nine devices for 24-hours: Actigraph GT3X+, activPAL, Fitbit One, GENEactiv, Jawbone Up, LUMOback, Nike Fuelband, Omron pedometer, and Z-Machine. Comparisons (to standards) were made for total sleep time (Z-machine), time...
Article
http://asaging.org/blog/developing-research-agenda-combat-ageism
Article
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This study examines the effect of survey context on self-reported rates of personal fraud victimization, and explores if the effect is influenced by age and gender. Participants (3,000U.S. adults) were randomly assigned to 1 of the 3 versions of a fraud victimization questionnaire: questions about fraud were identical across conditions, however, th...
Article
Research and theory suggest that emotional goals are increasingly prioritized with age. Related empirical work has shown that, compared with younger adults, older adults attend to and remember positive information more than negative information. This age-related positivity effect has been eliminated in experiments that have explicitly demanded proc...
Article
Findings based on studies of daily life consistently associate older ages with relatively positive emotional experience, suggesting that older adults may regulate emotions more effectively than younger adults. Findings from laboratory studies are equivocal, however, with mixed evidence for age-related improvements in use of emotion regulatory strat...
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Walking is among the most cost-effective and accessible means of exercise. Mounting evidence suggests that walking may help to maintain physical and cognitive independence in old age by preventing a variety of health problems. However, older Americans fall far short of meeting the daily recommendations for walking. In 2 studies, we examined whether...
Article
Research on the ways older people use prescription medications (Rx) is a mainstay of the gerontological literature because use of Rx medications is common, and appropriate use is central to effective management of chronic disease. But older adults are also major consumers of over-the-counter (OTC) medications, which can be equally significant for s...
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Telemarketing fraud is pervasive and older consumers are disproportionally targeted. Given laboratory research showing that forewarning can effectively counter influence appeals, we conducted a field experiment to test whether forewarning could protect people who had been victimized in the past. A research assistant with prior experience as a telem...
Article
The articles appearing in this special section discuss the role that conscientiousness may play in healthy aging. Growing evidence suggests that conscientious individuals live longer and healthier lives. However, the question remains whether this personality trait can be leveraged to improve long-term health outcomes. We argue that even though it m...
Article
Objective measurement of sedentary behavior with accelerometers is an important part of epidemiological research. Unfortunately, the definition of sedentary behavior includes both “sitting and low levels of energy expenditure”, which are not usually measured by popular activity monitors. Currently, there is only one research device (ActivPAL) that...
Article
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Considerable evidence points to age-related improvements in emotional well-being with age. In order to gain a more nuanced understanding of the nature of these apparent shifts in experience, we examined age differences in a range of emotional states in the mornings and evenings in a sample of 135 community-residing participants across 10 consecutiv...
Article
Past research has documented age differences in the size and composition of social networks that suggest that networks grow smaller with age and include an increasingly greater proportion of well-known social partners. According to socioemotional selectivity theory, such changes in social network composition serve an antecedent emotion regulatory f...
Article
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Traditional models of emotion-health interactions have emphasized the deleterious effects of negative emotions on physical health. More recently, researchers have turned to potential benefits of positive emotions on physical health as well. Both lines of research, though, neglect the complex interplay between positive and negative emotions and how...
Article
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Physical activity is associated with improved affective experience and enhanced cognitive processing. Potential age differences in the degree of benefit, however, are poorly understood because most studies examine either younger or older adults. The present study examined age differences in cognitive performance and affective experience immediately...
Data
Research on aging has indicated that whereas deliberative cognitive processes decline with age, emotional processes are relatively spared. To examine the implications of these divergent trajectories in the context of health care choices, we investigated whether instructional manipulations emphasizing a focus on feelings or details would have differ...
Article
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The experience of positive affect is essential for healthy functioning and quality of life. Although there is a great deal of research on ways in which people regulate negative states, little is known about the regulation of positive states. In the present study we examined age differences in the types of positive states people strive to experience...
Article
Attempts to show linkages between emotion and cognition and to make the case that these connections are particularly important for research on cognitive aging. The discussion focuses on the ways in which emotion may influence cognitive processing in older adults. The authors review evidence that emotional functioning is well maintained in later lif...
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The "positivity effect" refers to an age-related trend that favors positive over negative stimuli in cognitive processing. Relative to their younger counterparts, older people attend to and remember more positive than negative information. Since the effect was initially identified and the conceptual basis articulated (Mather and Carstensen, 2005) s...
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It has long been known that despite well-documented improvements in longevity for most Americans, alarming disparities persist among racial groups and between the well-educated and those with less education. In this article we update estimates of the impact of race and education on past and present life expectancy, examine trends in disparities fro...
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Intertemporal choices are a ubiquitous class of decisions that involve selecting between outcomes available at different times in the future. We investigated the neural systems supporting intertemporal decisions in healthy younger and older adults. Using functional neuroimaging, we find that aging is associated with a shift in the brain areas that...
Article
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Many people fail to save what they need to for retirement (Munnell, Webb, and Golub-Sass 2009). Research on excessive discounting of the future suggests that removing the lure of immediate rewards by pre-committing to decisions, or elaborating the value of future rewards can both make decisions more future-oriented. In this article, we explore a th...
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At times, caregivers make life-and-death decisions for loved ones. Yet very little is known about the factors that make caregivers more or less accurate as surrogate decision makers for their loved ones. Previous research suggests that in low stress situations, individuals with high attachment-related anxiety are attentive to their relationship par...
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In everyday life, people frequently make decisions based on tacit or explicit forecasts about the emotional consequences associated with the possible choices. We investigated age differences in such forecasts and their accuracy by surveying voters about their expected and, subsequently, their actual emotional responses to the 2008 US presidential e...
Article
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Recent evidence suggests that emotional well-being improves from early adulthood to old age. This study used experience-sampling to examine the developmental course of emotional experience in a representative sample of adults spanning early to very late adulthood. Participants (N = 184, Wave 1; N = 191, Wave 2; N = 178, Wave 3) reported their emoti...
Article
Reports an error in "Following your heart or your head: Focusing on emotions versus information differentially influences the decisions of younger and older adults" by Joseph A. Mikels, Corinna E. Löckenhoff, Sam J. Maglio, Laura L. Carstensen, Mary K. Goldstein and Alan Garber (Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 2010[Mar], Vol 16[1], 87-...
Article
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Aging appears to be associated with a growing preference for positive over negative information (Carstensen, Mikels, & Mather, 2006). In this study, we investigated potential awareness of the phenomenon by asking older people to recollect material from the perspective of a young person. Young and older participants listened to stories about 25- and...
Article
Research on aging has indicated that whereas deliberative cognitive processes decline with age, emotional processes are relatively spared. To examine the implications of these divergent trajectories in the context of health care choices, we investigated whether instructional manipulations emphasizing a focus on feelings or details would have differ...
Article
Full-text available
Contrasting cognitive and physical decline, research in emotional aging suggests that most older adults enjoy high levels of affective well-being and emotional stability into their 70s and 80s. We investigate the contributions of age-related changes in emotional motivation and competence to positive affect trajectories. We give an overview on the r...
Article
Reports an error in "Affect dynamics, affective forecasting, and aging" by Lisbeth Nielsen, Brian Knutson and Laura L. Carstensen (Emotion, 2008[Jun], Vol 8[3], 318-330). The first author of the article was listed as being affiliated with both the National Institute on Aging and the Department of Psychology, Stanford University. Dr. Nielsen would l...
Article
Full-text available
Older adults' relatively better memory for positive over negative material (positivity effect) has been widely observed in Western samples. This study examined whether a relative preference for positive over negative material is also observed in older Koreans. Younger and older Korean participants viewed images from the International Affective Pict...
Article
A growing body of research suggests that the ability to regulate emotion remains stable or improves across the adult life span. Socioemotional selectivity theory maintains that this pattern of findings reflects the prioritization of emotional goals. Given that goal-directed behavior requires attentional control, the present study was designed to in...
Article
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The past several decades have witnessed unidimensional decline models of aging give way to life-span developmental models that consider how specific processes and strategies facilitate adaptive aging. In part, this shift was provoked by the stark contrast between findings that clearly demonstrate decreased biological, physiological, and cognitive c...
Article
Reports an error in "Affect dynamics, affective forecasting, and aging" by Lisbeth Nielsen, Brian Knutson and Laura L. Carstensen (Emotion, 2008[Jun], Vol 8[3], 318-330). The first author of the article was listed as being affiliated with both the National Institute on Aging and the Department of Psychology, Stanford University. Dr. Nielsen would l...
Article
Older adults report less distress in response to interpersonal conflicts than do younger adults, yet few researchers have examined factors that may contribute to these age differences. Emotion regulation is partially determined by the initial cognitive and emotional reactions that events elicit. The authors examined reported thoughts and emotions o...
Article
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Affective forecasting, experienced affect, and recalled affect were compared in younger and older adults during a task in which participants worked to win and avoid losing small monetary sums. Dynamic changes in affect were measured along valence and arousal dimensions, with probes during both anticipatory and consummatory task phases. Older and yo...
Article
The anterior insula has been implicated in both the experience and the anticipation of negative outcomes. Although individual differences in insular sensitivity have been associated with self-report measures of chronic anxiety, previous research has not examined whether individual differences in insular sensitivity predict learning to avoid aversiv...
Article
Participants (N = 142 younger and older adults) made health care choices for themselves, a social partner of similar age, or a social partner substantially younger or older than themselves. Using computer-based decision scenarios, participants reviewed positive, negative, or neutral choice criteria before choosing. Older adults who chose for themse...
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The experience of mixed emotions increases with age. Socioemotional selectivity theory suggests that mixed emotions are associated with shifting time horizons. Theoretically, perceived constraints on future time increase appreciation for life, which, in turn, elicits positive emotions such as happiness. Yet, the very same temporal constraints heigh...