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Age-related differences in altruism across adulthood: Making personal financial gain versus contributing to the public good


Freund, Alexandra M; Blanchard-Fields, Fredda (2014). Age-related differences in altruism across adulthood: Making personal financial gain versus contributing to the public good. Developmental Psychology, 50(4):1125-1136.

Abstract

Four studies utilizing different methodological approaches investigated adult age-related differences in altruism (i.e., contributions to the public good) and the self-centered value of increasing personal wealth. In Study 1, data from the World Values Survey (World Values Survey Association, 2009) provided 1st evidence of a negative association between age and the self-reported wish to be rich. Ecological concerns, a form of contributing to the public good, were positively related to age. Study 2 investigated whether these values are expressed behaviorally when participants solved a complex problem that allowed striving for monetary gains or contributing to a public good. Confirming hypotheses, young adults’ strategies were consistent with the aim of optimizing personal financial gain, and older adults’ strategies with the aim to contribute to the public good. Studies 3 and 4 showed that older adults were more likely than younger and middle-aged adults to donate money to a good cause than to keep it for themselves. Study 4 manipulated participants’ future time perspective as a factor potentially contributing to age-related differences. Partly confirming hypotheses, a longer time perspective reduced donations by older adults, but a shorter time perspective did not increase donations by younger adults. These studies suggest that older adults not only report valuing contributions to the public good more highly but also are more likely to behave altruistically than younger adults. All studies used cross-sectional designs that prevent a strict test of developmental trajectories but rather provide age-related differences at 1 point in time, representing a 1st step in investigating adult age-related differences in altruism.

Abstract

Four studies utilizing different methodological approaches investigated adult age-related differences in altruism (i.e., contributions to the public good) and the self-centered value of increasing personal wealth. In Study 1, data from the World Values Survey (World Values Survey Association, 2009) provided 1st evidence of a negative association between age and the self-reported wish to be rich. Ecological concerns, a form of contributing to the public good, were positively related to age. Study 2 investigated whether these values are expressed behaviorally when participants solved a complex problem that allowed striving for monetary gains or contributing to a public good. Confirming hypotheses, young adults’ strategies were consistent with the aim of optimizing personal financial gain, and older adults’ strategies with the aim to contribute to the public good. Studies 3 and 4 showed that older adults were more likely than younger and middle-aged adults to donate money to a good cause than to keep it for themselves. Study 4 manipulated participants’ future time perspective as a factor potentially contributing to age-related differences. Partly confirming hypotheses, a longer time perspective reduced donations by older adults, but a shorter time perspective did not increase donations by younger adults. These studies suggest that older adults not only report valuing contributions to the public good more highly but also are more likely to behave altruistically than younger adults. All studies used cross-sectional designs that prevent a strict test of developmental trajectories but rather provide age-related differences at 1 point in time, representing a 1st step in investigating adult age-related differences in altruism.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Language:English
Date:2014
Deposited On:30 Jan 2014 14:57
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 17:25
Publisher:American Psychological Association
ISSN:0012-1649
Additional Information:This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1037/a0034491
PubMed ID:24059256

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