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Wednesday
Dec222010

Lousy Mood? It Will Improve in a Couple of Decades

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BERKELEY, Calif.) -- Tired of hearing your brain is going to be mush by the time you're old and grey? Well, here's some good news. Your emotions, or how you deal with them, will get better. At least some of them.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have completed a series of studies showing that as we age, we become better at seeing the good things in life and managing our emotions to make the best of a bad scene.

But seniors tend to become sadder and more empathetic and compassionate, possibly because they have faced so many personal and irreversible losses.

"Lots of things about our lives develop early on, and then they decline with age, like our physical agility and our ability to think quickly," psychologist Robert Levenson, senior author of the studies, said in a telephone interview. "But we don't get bad at emotions. We actually start to develop refinements as we get older. Some emotions kind of stay the same, they were designed for the long run, but there are other things that we actually get better at."

The Berkeley work is in line with a hot button issue in the often fuzzy field of psychology and human behavior. It's called emotional intelligence, frequently defined as "the ability to perceive, regulate and communicate emotions -- to understand emotions in ourselves and others."

The Berkeley team produced several studies this year zeroing in on how our emotional intelligence evolves as we age. In two large studies, the psychologists tested 366 people in three age groups, from the 20s to the 40s and 60s. They were tested for how they responded emotionally to three film clips showing neutral, sad and disgusting scenes.

The scientists wanted to determine how good their subjects were at detaching themselves from the emotional nature of the clips, or whether they could see something good even in sad scenes, as well as suppress their disgust at a woman eating part of a horse not normally consumed in the human diet.

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