Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Katie E. Cherry


The purpose of the present research was to examine the contribution of age and individual differences to everyday problem solving, focusing on goal preference. Three pilot studies were conducted to generate interpersonal problem solving goals that were high in emotional arousal and low in emotional arousal. In the Experiment Proper, 40 young and 40 older adults were given 6 vignettes depicting everyday problems. Subjects rated their preference of both high and low experimenter-provided goals. Subjects then completed 4 individual difference questionnaires that measured stimulation intensity, affect intensity, and emotional control. Results showed that both younger and older adults endorsed more low emotional arousal goals than high emotional arousal goals. The age by goal type interaction was non-significant. Predicted age main effects were found on a measure of reducer/augmenter type (Revised Form G2), and emotional control (ECQ), with older adults scoring more in the augmenter direction and endorsing greater inhibition of negative emotions than younger adults. Predicted age main effects were not found on a measure of affect intensity (AIM), suggesting that younger and older adults may not differ in experience of affect intensity. Predicted reducer/augmenter type main effects were found on a measure of emotional control (ECQ), with individuals needing stimulation (reducers) endorsing fewer strategies to inhibit negative emotions. Correlations suggested that with age, individuals need less stimulation and use more strategies to inhibit negative emotion. These findings are discussed in terms of conceptualization of age and individual differences in everyday problem solving. In addition, implications for intervention, design of environments, and future research on age differences in everyday problem solving and emotion are discussed.