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Journal Article

Emotional reactivity and interoceptive sensitivity: Exploring the role of age


Wallot,  Sebastian
Department of Language and Literature, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

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Mikkelsen, M. B., O’Toole, M. S., Lyby, M. S., Wallot, S., & Mehlsen, M. (2019). Emotional reactivity and interoceptive sensitivity: Exploring the role of age. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 26, 1440-1448. doi:10.3758/s13423-019-01603-y.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-D216-1
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.