The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Emotion Equivalence in Older and Younger Adults

The Challenge

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.

The Innovation/Technology

Our team conducted the first study to determine how older and younger adults conceptualized a broad range of emotion terms

The Impact

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.”

The Solution

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.

Ready, R.E., Santorelli, G.D., & Mather, M. (2016). Judgment and classification of emotion terms by older and younger adults. Aging and Mental Health.
Contact Info

Rebecca Ready
Psychological and Brain Sciences
Tobin 609
(413) 545-1359