Future time perspective drives younger and older adults to continue investing in failing activities

Xu Cai, Huamao Peng, Xueping Liu
Published Online:
16 Jan 2020

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Inspired by socioemotional selectivity theory, we investigated age differences in further investment in failing situations by considering goal type and future time perspective. In Experiment 1, 32 younger and 30 older adults reported their likelihood of continued investing following an unsuccessful investment. Older adults were more willing to invest with emotional goals as opposed to knowledge and unspecified goals, while younger adults showed a greater willingness to invest with emotional and knowledge goals rather than unspecified goals. In Experiment 2, another sample of 32 younger and 34 older adults completed the same decision tasks as those in Experiment 1. After future time perspective restriction, the younger adults made decisions resembling Experiment 1's older adults, while after future time perspective expansion, the older adults behaved like Experiment 1's younger adults. These results indicate that future time perspective modification could reverse participants' goal prioritisation, manifesting in differential willingness to pursue further investment in decision scenarios with different goals. Our results represent important steps towards understanding the mechanism of older and younger adults' further investment in failing situations and illustrate that forging connections between the lifespan theory of motivation and further investment decision is critical for understanding adults' decision behaviours.

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