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Academic Publication

Low-arousal Positive Affect Across Adulthood in Cultural Context

December 16, 2022

Contributors: Jeanne Nakamura, Ajit Singh Mann, Elena Lee, Claremont Graduate University

Experiences of calmness and contentment in daily life, and the contribution of these low-arousal positive emotions to well-being, have largely been neglected by researchers in favor of excitement, enthusiasm, and other high-arousal positive states (Delle Fave et al., 2016; McManus et al., 2018; Tsai, 2007). Increasingly, however, research has linked low-arousal positive affect to dimensions of health and well-being (e.g., Charles, 2010). Some research has suggested that both experiencing low-arousal positive affect (“actual affect”) and desiring to experience it (“ideal affect”) are influenced by age and culture (Tsai, 2007).

To generate a fuller understanding of the dynamics of emotion, age, and culture, our goal is to take advantage of the lifespan coverage and global reach of the Gallup World Poll, analyzing 2020 and 2021 World Poll data. Using 2021 data, we are examining, first, the relationship of age to the experience of low-arousal (vs. high-arousal) positive affect in daily life as measured by the alternative well-being items, addressing how actual affect differs between regions. We are focusing on comparisons of Western Europe and Northern America to East Asia, regions often contrasted in past research. Second, using 2020 data we are examining the interaction of age, actual affect, and ideal affect (as indicated by a preference for a calm versus exciting life) and their impact on well-being, again addressing how this differs by region.

Our preliminary analyses suggest significant but very small effects. We hope this line of analysis will inform future research on affective aging in cultural context and fuller understanding of the nature of well-being across adulthood.

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