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Another Possible Gift of Age: Less Emotion Overflow

New research reveals that future you may be more apt to keep emotions in check.

Key points

  • Previous research has identified a phenomenon known as emotion globalizing.
  • Emotion globalizing involves drawing from emotions at the time to gauge contentment with life overall.
  • Emotion globalizing is connected to varying life contentment, which is linked to less emotional wellness.
  • A new study revealed that older people engage in less emotion globalizing than younger people.
Carrie Louise by Tosha Gaines Photography
Source: Carrie Louise by Tosha Gaines Photography

When you think about how your life is going and how pleased you are with it, how do you determine the answer? Do you tend to think about what you’ve experienced in life, or are you more apt to rely on how you’re feeling then?

Scholars differ on whether people generally do the former or the latter. Previous research has revealed that people vary in the extent to which they depend on their emotions in the present to assess how happy they are with their life as a whole.

When people draw more heavily from their feelings in the moment to appraise how they feel about their life in general, this is known as emotion globalizing. Prior research indicates that a greater tendency to engage in emotional globalizing is linked to more fluctuations in how a person feels about their life broadly speaking.

In turn, more variation in how people feel about their lives overall is related to less emotional wellness. However, it’s not yet clear why there’s a connection between changeability in how people feel about their life and their emotional well-being, or what that means (whether one leads to the other).

Although this question hasn’t been addressed yet, a team of researchers just published a study that provided more information on the relatively new topic of emotion globalizing. They considered whether emotion globalizing shifts across age groups, as well as whether the pattern is different depending on the type of emotions involved (positive or negative) and whether the emotions pertained to the moment or the most demanding experience in a person’s day.

The team found that older people showed less of a tendency to engage in certain types of emotional globalizing relative to younger people. More specifically, the research showed that older individuals didn’t engage in as much emotion globalizing when it came to negative emotions (anxious, angry, sad) at a specific point in time or after the most trying experience they encountered that day. Older and younger folks didn’t seem to be different in how much they engaged in emotion globalizing around positive emotions (happy, calm, energetic).

What can we take from this? The researchers pointed out that people’s tendency to engage in emotional globalizing might shift over time. The research team also drew from other scholarly work that they believe might account for the results. In particular, they noted that individuals may be more able to draw from the wisdom they’ve gained through the years, enabling them to adopt viewpoints that better serve them and to cultivate an improved awareness of their emotions and what those emotions signify. Although there’s certainly more to learn about emotion globalizing, these results point to another possible benefit that may come with age.

Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz/Pexels
Source: Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz/Pexels


Barlow, M. A., Willroth, E. C., Wrosch, C., John, O. P., & Mauss, I. B. (2023). When daily emotions spill into life satisfaction: Age differences in emotion globalizing. Psychology and Aging, 38(7), 644–655.

Willroth, E. C., John, O. P., Biesanz, J. C., & Mauss, I. B. (2020). Understanding short-term variability in life satisfaction: The individual differences in evaluating life satisfaction (IDELS) model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 119(1), 229–248.

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