Aging, empathy, and prosociality

Janelle N. Beadle, Alexander H. Sheehan, Brian Dahlben, Angela H. Gutchess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

41 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objectives. Although empathy is a well-established motivation in younger adults for helping others, it is not known whether this extends to aging. Prioritization of socioemotional goals with age may increase the salience of helping others (i.e., prosocial behavior), but older adults also experience decreased cognitive empathy. Thus, we investigated age-related differences in relationships among empathy and prosocial behavior. Method. Participants were 24 younger (M = 19.8 years) and 24 older (M = 77.9 years) healthy adults. Whereas participants believed the study involved playing the dictator game, in reality, state emotional empathy was induced implicitly through a note from an opponent describing their experience with cancer. Prosocial behavior was measured by participants' monetary offers to that opponent. Results. Older adults showed greater prosocial behavior due to the empathy induction than younger adults. There was a positive association between state emotional empathy ratings and prosocial behavior in older, but not in younger adults, and preliminary evidence for higher state emotional empathy levels in older adults with higher trait cognitive empathy. Discussion. This suggests that in contexts relevant to socioemotional goals, older adults may be more motivated than younger adults to help others and state emotional empathy may be a potential mechanism for greater prosocial behavior in aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-222
Number of pages10
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Volume70
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015

Fingerprint

empathy
young adult
Young Adult
induction
Motivation
experience
cancer
rating
evidence

Keywords

  • Aging
  • Economic decision making
  • Empathy
  • Prosocial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

Cite this

Aging, empathy, and prosociality. / Beadle, Janelle N.; Sheehan, Alexander H.; Dahlben, Brian; Gutchess, Angela H.

In: Journals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, Vol. 70, No. 2, 01.03.2015, p. 213-222.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Beadle, Janelle N. ; Sheehan, Alexander H. ; Dahlben, Brian ; Gutchess, Angela H. / Aging, empathy, and prosociality. In: Journals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. 2015 ; Vol. 70, No. 2. pp. 213-222.
@article{a7e998cfe7844e738f455c7455f889fe,
title = "Aging, empathy, and prosociality",
abstract = "Objectives. Although empathy is a well-established motivation in younger adults for helping others, it is not known whether this extends to aging. Prioritization of socioemotional goals with age may increase the salience of helping others (i.e., prosocial behavior), but older adults also experience decreased cognitive empathy. Thus, we investigated age-related differences in relationships among empathy and prosocial behavior. Method. Participants were 24 younger (M = 19.8 years) and 24 older (M = 77.9 years) healthy adults. Whereas participants believed the study involved playing the dictator game, in reality, state emotional empathy was induced implicitly through a note from an opponent describing their experience with cancer. Prosocial behavior was measured by participants' monetary offers to that opponent. Results. Older adults showed greater prosocial behavior due to the empathy induction than younger adults. There was a positive association between state emotional empathy ratings and prosocial behavior in older, but not in younger adults, and preliminary evidence for higher state emotional empathy levels in older adults with higher trait cognitive empathy. Discussion. This suggests that in contexts relevant to socioemotional goals, older adults may be more motivated than younger adults to help others and state emotional empathy may be a potential mechanism for greater prosocial behavior in aging.",
keywords = "Aging, Economic decision making, Empathy, Prosocial",
author = "Beadle, {Janelle N.} and Sheehan, {Alexander H.} and Brian Dahlben and Gutchess, {Angela H.}",
year = "2015",
month = "3",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1093/geronb/gbt091",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "70",
pages = "213--222",
journal = "Journals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences",
issn = "1079-5014",
publisher = "Gerontological Society of America",
number = "2",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Aging, empathy, and prosociality

AU - Beadle, Janelle N.

AU - Sheehan, Alexander H.

AU - Dahlben, Brian

AU - Gutchess, Angela H.

PY - 2015/3/1

Y1 - 2015/3/1

N2 - Objectives. Although empathy is a well-established motivation in younger adults for helping others, it is not known whether this extends to aging. Prioritization of socioemotional goals with age may increase the salience of helping others (i.e., prosocial behavior), but older adults also experience decreased cognitive empathy. Thus, we investigated age-related differences in relationships among empathy and prosocial behavior. Method. Participants were 24 younger (M = 19.8 years) and 24 older (M = 77.9 years) healthy adults. Whereas participants believed the study involved playing the dictator game, in reality, state emotional empathy was induced implicitly through a note from an opponent describing their experience with cancer. Prosocial behavior was measured by participants' monetary offers to that opponent. Results. Older adults showed greater prosocial behavior due to the empathy induction than younger adults. There was a positive association between state emotional empathy ratings and prosocial behavior in older, but not in younger adults, and preliminary evidence for higher state emotional empathy levels in older adults with higher trait cognitive empathy. Discussion. This suggests that in contexts relevant to socioemotional goals, older adults may be more motivated than younger adults to help others and state emotional empathy may be a potential mechanism for greater prosocial behavior in aging.

AB - Objectives. Although empathy is a well-established motivation in younger adults for helping others, it is not known whether this extends to aging. Prioritization of socioemotional goals with age may increase the salience of helping others (i.e., prosocial behavior), but older adults also experience decreased cognitive empathy. Thus, we investigated age-related differences in relationships among empathy and prosocial behavior. Method. Participants were 24 younger (M = 19.8 years) and 24 older (M = 77.9 years) healthy adults. Whereas participants believed the study involved playing the dictator game, in reality, state emotional empathy was induced implicitly through a note from an opponent describing their experience with cancer. Prosocial behavior was measured by participants' monetary offers to that opponent. Results. Older adults showed greater prosocial behavior due to the empathy induction than younger adults. There was a positive association between state emotional empathy ratings and prosocial behavior in older, but not in younger adults, and preliminary evidence for higher state emotional empathy levels in older adults with higher trait cognitive empathy. Discussion. This suggests that in contexts relevant to socioemotional goals, older adults may be more motivated than younger adults to help others and state emotional empathy may be a potential mechanism for greater prosocial behavior in aging.

KW - Aging

KW - Economic decision making

KW - Empathy

KW - Prosocial

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84924407845&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84924407845&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1093/geronb/gbt091

DO - 10.1093/geronb/gbt091

M3 - Article

C2 - 24115776

AN - SCOPUS:84924407845

VL - 70

SP - 213

EP - 222

JO - Journals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences

JF - Journals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences

SN - 1079-5014

IS - 2

ER -