Age and the experience of strong self-conscious emotion.Aging Ment Health. 2018 04; 22(4):497-502.AM
It remains unclear whether there are age-related changes in the experience of strong self-conscious emotion, such as shame, guilt, pride and embarrassment. Because shame and guilt figure prominently in the aetiology of depressive symptoms and other mental health problems, a better understanding of how age affects the strong experience of these two negative self-conscious emotions is of particular importance.
Thirty younger, 30 middle-aged and 30 older adults were compared on standardised cognitive assessments, in addition to an interview-based measure that assessed whether there are age differences in the likelihood of strongly experiencing four different types of self-conscious emotion within the past five years (shame, guilt, embarrassment and pride).
The three groups did not differ in their likelihood of reporting an event that strongly elicited the positive self-conscious emotion of pride. However, older adults were more likely to report sources of pride that were other (as opposed to self) focused. Older adults were also less likely to report experiencing events that elicited all three negative self-conscious emotions, in particular, shame.
Strong negative self-conscious emotion, and in particular shame, appears to be experienced less by older than younger adults.