Perspective taking in older age revisited : A motivational perspective

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Author(s)

  • Xin Zhang
  • Helene H. Fung
  • Jennifer T. Stanley
  • Derek M. Isaacowitz
  • Man Yee Ho

Detail(s)

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1848-1858
Journal / PublicationDevelopmental Psychology
Volume49
Issue number10
Online published31 Dec 2012
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes

Abstract

How perspective-taking ability changes with age (i.e., whether older adults are better at understanding others' behaviors and intentions and show greater empathy to others or not) is not clear, with prior empirical findings on this phenomenon yielding mixed results. In a series of experiments, we investigated the phenomenon from a motivational perspective. Perceived closeness between participants and the experimenter (Study 1) or the target in an emotion recognition task (Study 2) was manipulated to examine whether the closeness could influence participants' performance in faux pas recognition (Study 1) and emotion recognition (Study 2). It was found that the well-documented negative age effect (i.e., older adults performed worse than younger adults in faux pas and emotion recognition tasks) was only replicated in the control condition for both tasks. When closeness was experimentally increased, older adults enhanced their performance, and they now performed at a comparable level as younger adults. Findings from the 2 experiments suggest that the reported poorer performance of older adults in perspective-taking tasks might be attributable to a lack of motivation instead of ability to perform in laboratory settings. With the presence of strong motivation, older adults have the ability to perform equally well as younger adults.

Research Area(s)

  • Age differences, Perspective taking, Selective engagement hypothesis

Citation Format(s)

Perspective taking in older age revisited : A motivational perspective. / Zhang, Xin; Fung, Helene H.; Stanley, Jennifer T.; Isaacowitz, Derek M.; Ho, Man Yee.

In: Developmental Psychology, Vol. 49, No. 10, 10.2013, p. 1848-1858.

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review