Perceptions of emotion and age among younger, midlife, and older adults

Gennarina D. Santorelli, Rebecca E. Ready*, Molly A. Mather

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objectives: Older adults report greater emotional well-being than younger persons, yet negative stereotypes about aging are pervasive. Little is known about age group perceptions of emotion in adulthood, particularly for familiar persons. Thus, this project determined perceptions of general affect in familiar younger and older adults. Method: In two studies, participants (Study 1, younger adult n D 123, older adult n D 43; Study 2, younger adult n D 34, midlife adult n D 41, older adult n D 16) provided self-report data about their affect in general, as well as reported on the affect of a familiar younger person (aged 18–34) and a familiar older person (aged 65 or older). Emotion scales assessed high- and low-arousal positive and negative affect. Results: Results suggest a less favorable perception of emotion experiences of older adults compared to younger adults. Specifically, participants of all age groups rated older adults as having lower positive emotions and higher negative emotions than is found in self-report data. Conclusion: Perceptions of emotion in older adulthood reflect stereotypes of negative functioning. Older adult participants were not immune to holding negative views about older adults. Negative perceptions about emotion experiences in later life may be detrimental to the physical and mental health of older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)421-429
Number of pages9
JournalAging and Mental Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018


  • Adult development
  • Emotion
  • Informant-report
  • Self-report
  • Stereotype

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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