Socioemotional Functioning and the Aging Brain

Gregory R. Samanez-Larkin and Laura L. Carstensen

in The Oxford Handbook of Social Neuroscience

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780195342161
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Socioemotional Functioning and the Aging Brain

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Social Psychology



Effective social and emotional functioning is essential to healthy relationships at any age. Although the understanding of socioemotional functioning in late life has increased in recent decades, most of the existing research relies on information reported by individuals on questionnaires or during interviews. Social neuroscience promises to uncover important and novel information that can greatly enhance this growing area of research. In particular, social neuroscience is allowing tests of hypotheses that cannot be tested well using traditional behavioral methods. This chapter identifies the important contributions that social neuroscience has made to our understanding of the socioemotional aspects of adult development and aging. It reviews studies that utilize a variety of methods to assess autonomic and central nervous system function from peripheral physiology to electrophysiology to fMRI. It argues that brain imaging introduces a way to tease apart findings that may reflect top-down processes from ones that are bottom-up, and that the neuroscience literature to date provides surprisingly consistent support for the postulates of socioemotional selectivity theory (SST) and a motivated basis for the positivity effect.

Keywords: adult development; aging; emotion; motivation; social cognition; positivity effect; anticipation; memory; learning; reward; emotion regulation; individual differences; fMRI; ERP; psychophysiology; methods; (functional) connectivity; amygdala; caudate; ant

Article.  11198 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience ; Social Psychology

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