The process model of emotion regulation (ER) is based on stages in the emotion generative process at which regulation may occur. This meta-analysis examines age-related differences in the subjective, behavioral, and physiological outcomes of instructed ER strategies that may be initiated after an emotional event has occurred; attentional deployment, cognitive change, and response modulation. Within-process strategy, stimulus type, and valence were also tested as potential moderators of the effect of age on ER. A systematic search of the literature identified 156 relevant comparisons from 11 studies. Few age-related differences were found. In our analysis of the subjective outcome of response modulation strategies, young adults used expressive enhancement successfully (g = 0.48), but not expressive suppression (g = 0.04). Response modulation strategies had a small positive effect among older adults, and enhancement vs suppression did not moderate this success (g = 0.31 and g = 0.10, respectively). Young adults effectively used response modulation to regulate subjective emotion in response to pictures (g = 0.41) but not films (g = 0.01). Older adults were able to regulate in response to both pictures (g = 0.26) and films (g = 0.11). Interestingly, both age groups effectively used detached reappraisal, but not positive reappraisal to regulate emotional behavior. We conclude that, in line with well-established theories of socioemotional aging, there is a lack of evidence for age differences in the effects of instructed ER strategies, with some moderators suggesting more consistent effectiveness for older compared to younger adults.
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