Age-Related Emotional Advantages in Encountering Novel Situation in Daily Life

Li Chu, Yochai Z. Shavit, Nilam Ram, Laura L. Carstensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People encounter novel situations throughout their lives that contribute to the acquisition of knowledge and experience. However, novelty can be misaligned with goals and motivation in later adulthood according to socioemotional selectivity theory. This study investigated age differences in emotional reactions associated with novel experiences. Multilevel structural equation models were used to analyze experience-sampling data obtained from an adult sample of 375 participants aged 18–94 years who reported their current situation and momentary emotional experience five times per day for 7 days. On occasions where situations were rated as more novel, people reported reduced positive and increased negative emotion. Those who had more overall exposure to novel situations tended to have more negative emotional experiences in general. Contrary to our hypothesis, there were age differences in individuals’ negative emotional reactivity to situations that are perceived as more novel, such that novel situations were reported as less negative among older adults. By applying theoretical understanding of age differences in motivation and well-being in adulthood, our findings illuminate aspects of situations that elicit negative emotions. Findings highlight age-related benefits in emotional well-being, consistent with socioemotional selectivity theory postulates, and further implies that older adults may not be novelty averse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-125
Number of pages13
JournalPsychology and aging
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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