Arousal is not always distressing

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Chapter 10 endnote 38, from How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context is:

You might predict threats needlessly, or create uncertainty by predicting imprecisely or not at all. [...] A brain awash in prediction error is not always anxious; consider the infant’s lantern of attention (chapter 6) or times when novelty and uncertainty are pleasant (e.g., meeting a new lover)...

A brain awash in prediction error is higher in arousal, but this is not always unpleasant or distressing. Uncertainty can be neutral, as in surprise, or even pleasant, as in anticipation.[1]

Older people experience increases in arousal as unpleasant,[2][3][4] which may be one reason why it's harder to learn new things as you age.

Notes on the Notes

  1. Wilson, Timothy D., Dieynaba G. Ndiaye, Cheryl Hahn, and Daniel T. Gilbert. 2013. “Still a Thrill: Meaning Making and the Pleasures of Uncertainty.” In The Psychology of Meaning, edited by Keith D. Markman and Travis Proulx, 421–443. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  2. Scheibe, Susanne, Tammy English, Jeanne L. Tsai, and Laura L. Carstensen. 2013. "Striving to feel good: ideal affect, actual affect, and their correspondence across adulthood." Psychology and Aging 28 (1): 160-71.
  3. Keil, Andreas, and Alexandra M. Freund. 2009. "Changes in the sensitivity to appetitive and aversive arousal across adulthood." Psychology and Aging 24 (3): 668-680.
  4. Sands, Molly, and Derek M. Isaacowitz. 2016. "Situation selection across adulthood: the role of arousal." Cognition and Emotion. doi 10.1080/02699931.2016.1152954