Testing new medical devices, assessing treatment effectiveness, and determining the benefits of environmental manipulations require, in part, that research participants report on emotions. The integrity of this research rests on the ability of investigators to measure emotions similarly across diverse persons, including persons of different ages.
Our team conducted the first study to determine how older and younger adults conceptualized a broad range of emotion terms
We discovered that older and younger persons think about emotion terms in a similar manner with two exceptions. Younger persons associate self-derogatory terms with “sadness” and “loneliness,” whereas this was not the case for older adults. Older adults also had richer conceptions of “serenity.”
Emotion assessments in life sciences research should be tailored to ensure that similar constructs are measured across different demographic groups. Emotion terms that have different meaning across groups should be avoided or appropriately adapted.