Individual differences in sadness coherence: Associations with dispositional affect and age.

Deborah J. Wu, Ryan C. Svoboda, Katherine K. Bae, Claudia M. Haase*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The current laboratory-based study examined individual differences in sadness coherence (i.e., coherence between objectively coded sad facial expressions and heart rate in response to a sad film clip) and associations with dispositional affect (i.e., positive and negative affect, extraversion, neuroticism) and age in a sample of younger and older adults. Results showed that (a) greater sadness coherence was associated with lower dispositional negative affect (i.e., greater positive to negative affect ratio; lower neuroticism) and (b) older adults had greater sadness coherence than younger adults. Findings remained stable when controlling for covariates. Results were specific to coherence characterized by an inverse association between heart rate and facial expressions of sadness (i.e., did not emerge for absolute changes in heart rate or skin conductance), specific to sad facial expressions (i.e., did not emerge for happy facial expressions), specific to stimulus (i.e., did not emerge for sadness coherence in response to a happy film clip), generalized across overall levels of emotional responding (i.e., sad facial expressions; heart rate reactivity), and remained stable when controlling for expressive suppression. These findings demonstrate that individuals who exhibit greater sadness coherence experience more favorable dispositional affect, consistent with evolutionary-functionalist models of emotion, and that sadness coherence is higher in late life, consistent with developmental accounts of heightened reactivity to loss in late life. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)465-477
Number of pages13
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021


  • age
  • dispositional affect
  • response coherence
  • sadness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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