Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Sadness response strengthens with age

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Interesting. I think I’ve noticed this. Laura Sanders writes in Science News:

As people grow older, sad films seem sadder.

In a recent study, people in their sixties felt sadder than people in their twenties did after viewing an emotionally distressing scene from a movie. This heightened emotional response to sorrow may reflect a greater compassion for other people and may strengthen social bonds, researchers propose.

The finding is an important contribution to emotion studies because it adds to a growing body of work showing that emotions don’t deteriorate, says Stanford University psychologist Laura Carstensen, who was not involved in the research. “One of the important findings of this is that the emotion system is in no way broken in old age,” she says.

To explore how feelings of sadness change with age, researchers led by Robert Levenson of the University of California, Berkeley brought 222 study participants into the laboratory to watch neutral, disgusting or sad movie clips. The volunteers made up three age groups: young people in their twenties, middle-aged people in their forties, and older people in their sixties. Before watching the movies, participants were hooked up to monitors that recorded physiological responses such as blood pressure, heart rate and breathing patterns. 

Levenson and his team chose two gut-wrenchingly sad scenes to elicit responses: In the first clip, from the movie 21 Grams, a mother is told of the deaths of her two young daughters. The second scene, from The Champ, depicts a young boy watching his father die after a boxing match. (The disgusting clips were also well chosen: They showed a woman eating horse rectum and a man sucking fluid from a cow’s intestines, both on NBC’s Fear Factor. The neutral scene showed two men talking about nothing in the absurdist film Stranger than Paradise.)

In addition to measuring physiological responses to the movie clips, the researchers asked people to describe how they felt. People in their sixties reported …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2010 at 12:18 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

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