Living with limited time: Socioemotional selectivity theory in the context of health adversity.

TitleLiving with limited time: Socioemotional selectivity theory in the context of health adversity.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsSullivan-Singh SJ, Stanton AL, Low CA
JournalJ Pers Soc Psychol
Date Published2015 Jun
KeywordsAttention, Breast Neoplasms, Case-Control Studies, Depression, Emotions, Female, Goals, Humans, Memory, Middle Aged, Psychological Theory, Reaction Time, Social Behavior

The current research was designed to test the applicability of socioemotional selectivity theory (SST; Carstensen, 2006), a life span theory that posits that perceived time remaining in life (time perspective) is a critical determinant of motivation, to individuals who face foreshortened futures (limited time perspective) due to life-limiting medical illness. In Study 1, we investigated whether life goals and biases in attention and memory for valenced emotional stimuli differed between women living with metastatic breast cancer (n = 113; theoretically living under greater limited time perspective than peers without cancer) and similarly aged women without a cancer diagnosis (n = 50; theoretically living under greater expansive time perspective than peers with cancer) in accordance with SST. As hypothesized, metastatic group goals reflected greater emphasis on limited versus expansive time perspective relative to comparison group goals. Hypotheses regarding biases in attention and memory were not supported. Study 2 followed metastatic group participants over 3 months and revealed that, consistent with hypotheses, whereas limited time perspective goals predicted decreased intrusive thoughts about cancer, expansive time perspective goals predicted decreased perceived cancer-related benefits. Together, these studies suggest that SST is a useful lens through which to view some components of motivation and psychological adjustment among individuals confronting medically foreshortened futures.

Alternate JournalJ Pers Soc Psychol
PubMed ID25984789
PubMed Central IDPMC4868189
Grant ListP30 CA047904 / CA / NCI NIH HHS / United States