Motivating older Americans to walk : an application of socioemotional selectivity theory

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Mounting evidence suggests that active lifestyles may help to maintain physical and cognitive independence in old age by preserving good health. Walking is among the most cost-effective and accessible means of exercise. However, older Americans fall far short of meeting the daily recommendations for walking. In my dissertation research, I examine the relevance of socioemotional selectivity theory to the promotion of healthy lifestyles among older adults. In four studies, I examine whether or not considering older adults' preferential attention to positive information may effectively enhance interventions aimed at promoting walking. In Study 1, I compared the effectiveness of positive, negative, and neutral messages to encourage walking (as measured with pedometers). Older adults who were informed about the benefits of walking walked more than those who were informed about the negative consequences of failing to walk, whereas younger adults were unaffected by framing valence. In Study 2, I examined within-person changes in walking in response to positively- or negatively-framed messages over a 28-day period. Once again, positively-framed messages more effectively promoted walking than negatively-framed messages in older adults, and the effect was sustained across the intervention period. Study 3 extended this research to a less affluent population of older adults living in neighborhoods with many obstacles for health behaviors. The effectiveness of positively- compared to negatively-framed messages varied by ethnicity and neighborhood walkability. In Study 4, I examined whether selective adherence to positively-framed health recommendations among older adults was associated with neural and cognitive processes. Brain regions implicated in motivation and memory tracked with the processing of emotionally-valenced compared to neutral information across participants. Older adults remembered positively-framed information about walking better than negatively-framed information. Brain activation and explicit memory were associated with walking. Together, these studies suggest that consideration of age-related changes in preferences for positive and negative information may inform the design of effective interventions to promote healthy lifestyles.


Type of resource text
Form electronic; electronic resource; remote
Extent 1 online resource.
Publication date 2013
Issuance monographic
Language English


Associated with Notthoff, Nanna
Associated with Stanford University, Department of Psychology.
Primary advisor Carstensen, Laura L
Thesis advisor Carstensen, Laura L
Thesis advisor Bandura, Albert, 1925-
Thesis advisor Thomas, Ewart A. C
Advisor Bandura, Albert, 1925-
Advisor Thomas, Ewart A. C


Genre Theses

Bibliographic information

Statement of responsibility Nanna Notthoff.
Note Submitted to the Department of Psychology.
Thesis Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2013.
Location electronic resource

Access conditions

© 2013 by Nanna Notthoff
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).

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