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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2008 Jan;94(1):158-67. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.94.1.158.

Poignancy: mixed emotional experience in the face of meaningful endings.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Stanford University, CA 94305, USA. haleh@psych.stanford.edu

Abstract

The experience of mixed emotions increases with age. Socioemotional selectivity theory suggests that mixed emotions are associated with shifting time horizons. Theoretically, perceived constraints on future time increase appreciation for life, which, in turn, elicits positive emotions such as happiness. Yet, the very same temporal constraints heighten awareness that these positive experiences come to an end, thus yielding mixed emotional states. In 2 studies, the authors examined the link between the awareness of anticipated endings and mixed emotional experience. In Study 1, participants repeatedly imagined being in a meaningful location. Participants in the experimental condition imagined being in the meaningful location for the final time. Only participants who imagined "last times" at meaningful locations experienced more mixed emotions. In Study 2, college seniors reported their emotions on graduation day. Mixed emotions were higher when participants were reminded of the ending that they were experiencing. Findings suggest that poignancy is an emotional experience associated with meaningful endings.

PMID:
18179325
PMCID:
PMC2807633
DOI:
10.1037/0022-3514.94.1.158
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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