How do we treat our emotions differently as we age?

    • Topic: Cognitive Development

    • Location: Hall of Human Life

    Development doesn’t stop when you become an adult; you continue to grow and change across your entire lifespan. Research has shown that one way adults continue to change is in how they think about and deal with their emotions.

    People know that certain experiences tend to impact their emotions in specific ways and they are able to use this knowledge to regulate, or control, their emotions. For example, you might call a close friend to cheer you up after a tough day or avoid driving at rush hour because you know it will be frustrating. As people age they seem to not just change how they regulate their emotions, but also when and why they do so. We are interested in learning more about these changes.

    In our studies, adults (age 18 or older) will be asked to do short activities that might impact their emotions. For example, we may ask people to watch videos, look at pictures, or write about past or possible future experiences. People will also be asked to occasionally rate their mood. We may also record physiological measures of mood like heart rate and pupil dilation.

    We are interested in the relationship between how people do these potentially emotional activities and their mood. We will be looking at whether this relationship or people’s behaviors change with age.

    The results of this study will help us understand how people control their emotions through their choices. This study will also help us better understand how emotion regulation changes as we age.

    This research is conducted at Museum of Science, Boston by Derek Isaacowitz and the Lifespan Emotion Development Lab

        » Lifespan Emotion Development Lab

    Activities to Try in the Hall of Human Life

    Watching Yourself

    Find the “Do you look scared?” link station in the Organisms environment. You will see pictures of different animals while a special camera records your eyes. When you’re done you can watch how your pupils changed as you were looking at different animals.

    Was our link station able to tell how you felt about different animals by measuring your eyes? How do you think people’s pupils look when they are remembering good times? How might someone’s pupils look while watching a scary movie? What if someone were thinking about something they were really excited about – would their pupils be more like someone thinking about happy memories or someone watching a scary movie? Think about how other things like your heartbeat and breathing change when you are happy, scared, or excited.

    Activities to Try at Home

    Getting Happy

    Try to think of a time when you were sad, angry, or frustrated. Can you remember what made you feel that way? How about what made you feel better?

    What’s your favorite thing to do to improve your mood when you’re feeling down? What do your friends and family members like to do? Can you think of new and different ways that you can change your mood?

Research Spotlight

Contact Living Laboratory staff:

livinglaboratory@mos.org