Emotional reactivity and interoceptive sensitivity: Exploring the role of age.

Author: Mikkelsen MB1, O'Toole MS2, Lyby MS2, Wallot S3, Mehlsen M2
Author Information:
1Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark. mai@psy.au.dk.
2Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark.
3Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Frankfurt, Germany.
Conference/Journal: Psychon Bull Rev.
Date published: 2019 Apr 25
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.3758/s13423-019-01603-y. [Epub ahead of print] , Word Count: 252

Interoceptive sensitivity (IS) refers to the ability to accurately perceive visceral afferent information, and several prominent theories of emotions suggest that IS is associated with heightened emotional reactivity. Recent evidence has pointed to a decline in IS with age, but there is no consistent evidence of age-related decline in emotional reactivity. This may be because the relationship between IS and emotional reactivity changes with age. To address this hypothesis, we examined the moderating role of age in the association between IS and emotional responses to affect-inducing images. A sample of 65 young adults (mean age = 23.91 years, SD = 4.62) and 32 older adults (mean age = 61.78 years, SD = 8.76) was exposed to affect-inducing images from the Nencki Affective Picture System database and completed a heartbeat perception task. Participants' subjective emotional responses to the images were assessed with questionnaires, and their physiological reactivity was indicated by electrodermal activity, heart rate, and heart rate variability during image viewing. The results revealed that age moderated the association between IS and emotional reactivity, while no significant age differences were found in IS, change in affect, or physiological reactivity. The findings demonstrated that IS was associated with emotional reactivity for young adults but not for older adults, suggesting that young and older adults may differ in their use of internal bodily signals to obtain information about their emotional experience. Consistent with contemporary developments within the affective sciences, the results emphasize the importance of individual differences in emotional experiences.

KEYWORDS: Emotion; Emotion processing and aging; Interoception; Interoceptive sensitivity

PMID: 31025199 DOI: 10.3758/s13423-019-01603-y