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Socioemotional Selectivity Theory

This entry provides an overview of socioemotional selectivity theory (SST), which has been used to explain the well-being paradox, whereby older age is not only characterized by poorer health and cognitive functioning, but also paradoxically by enhanced emotional well-being (i.e., relatively high positive affect and low negative affect). According to the theory, emotional well-being increases across the life span because as people age, they shift their priorities from a focus on longer term knowledge-based goals (e.g., working toward a college degree, learning about new social partners) toward more present-focused and emotionally meaningful goals (e.g., spending quality time with loved ones). Thus, SST predicts that older adults may experience greater well-being than younger individuals because they are more invested in achieving emotionally meaningful goals. SST further ...

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