Subjective Age and the Greater Good

Subjective Age and the Greater Good

By
Jen Heewon Park, Szu-chi Huang, Bella Rozenkrants, Daniella Kupor
Journal of Consumer Psychology. June
2020

Contradicting existing associations between old age and negative societal consequences, such as being frail and unproductive, this research finds that people contribute more to the greater good of society (e.g., by helping strangers in need) when they feel subjectively older. We document this phenomenon in both the lab and the field and find that this heightened desire to contribute to the greater good occurs because feeling subjectively older increases consumers’ perceived responsibility for others’ welfare. We further uncover a divergent impact of subjective age versus chronological age on giving to distant others: Whereas older subjective age increases perceived responsibility for distant others’ welfare and thus contributions to distant others, older chronological age does not. These findings connect the classic theories of prosocial behavior with new research on subjective age and illuminate a psychological driver that nudges people to take actions that benefit distant others.