Our research foci

Social Goals

Are social goals - that is, what we desire and what we avoid in social relationships - have an impact on our social relationships and thus on our well-being, health, and even life expectancy. Social goals energize and guide our behavior in the social realm and enable us to adapt to our circumstances and opportunities. People can actively shape their development through social goals. In this research area, we explore three questions: (1) How do social goals change across adulthood? (2) Do social goals have age-differential consequences for subjective well-being? and (3) Why do social goals change with age? We conduct studies (longitudinal studies, experimental studies, experience sampling studies) that seek answers to these questions and demonstrate the relevance of social goals across adulthood. For example, we find that young adults particularly benefit from pursuing positive social relationships, whereas older adults benefit from avoiding negative social relationships. Or, that spouses affect each other in their goals over time. For more information: jana.nikitin@univie.ac.at.

Negative Images of Aging

Another focus of our research is the study of negative images of aging, their antecedents and consequences. Images of aging represent both stereotypes about older persons as a group and anticipations of one's own aging. We examine, for example, the role of the discrepancy between expectations and reality of older adult's situation in producing negative images of old age. Negative images of old age in turn reduce the willingness to prepare for old age. Thus, this research has important sociopolitical implications. For more information: jana.nikitin@univie.ac.at.

Negative images of old age as antecedents of social goals form a second research strand in this area. For example, we address the question of how social goals of older workers change when older workers internalize negative age stereotypes. Through this mechanism, negative age images may cause older workers to drop out of the labor force, with corresponding personal, social, and economic consequences. For more information: jana.nikitin@univie.ac.at.

Little is known about the influence of age images on social embeddedness and relational experience, and the question of causality arises - do age images determine our social embeddedness, or is it not more likely that people who value their social relationships positively and lead socially active lives also develop more positive images of aging? We are exploring this question in a variety of studies: longitudinal studies, experiments, and also as an intervention. For more information: christina.ristl@univie.ac.at.

Experience of Time and Future

Our aging process in embedded in the passage of time and our experience of the past, present and future. Personal and societal change are hereby central aspects of aging and growing old. In terms of the past, individuals experience change differently, they become aware of certain gains and losses, and are potentially longing for the time before the changes occurred, that is, their past and youth. This can have consequences for psychological well-being and reflects how individuals deal with their own aging. For more information: fiona.rupprecht@univie.ac.at, jana.nikitin@univie.ac.at

In term of the future, aging provision is a concrete preparation for future change. Aging provision is more than finanical preparation, but for example also includes aspects such as living arrangements, care, dying and death as well as social relationships. Although aging provision can lessen fears and relieve both the individual themselves as well as their close others, there tends to be an under-investment in aging provision. In our research we investigate what motivates individuals to deal with their future and aging and how we can support an active confrontation and preparation. For more information: fiona.rupprecht@univie.ac.at

Dealing with the future means—particularly at higher ages—also dealing with the finitude of life. In this vein, our research targets the fear of dying and death, the wish for more time in life and the psychological consequences of a limited future time. For more information: fiona.rupprecht@univie.ac.at

Significant Life Events

Significant life events have a clear time frame, interfere with everyday life, and are perceived as personally significant. Although significant life events have a major impact on our lives and well-being, studies of the experience and management of significant life events across the lifespan are still lacking.

Does the experience of a romantic relationship, the loss of a loved one, or unemployment differ among young, middle-aged, and older adults? Our research aims to find answers to these questions. To do so, we address four age-differentiated issues: (1) characteristics of significant life events (such as perceived control over life events, their age normativity, and valence), (2) changes in social relationships over the course of significant life events, (3) the role of personality, and (4) context (specifically, the Covid-19 pandemic) in experiencing significant life events. For more information: radjenovic.sonja@yahoo.com.

Interventions for Successful Aging

The ultimate goal of our research is to improve the lives of older people. To this end, our latest research projects design intervention studies that aim to empower older people (increase resilience), increase physical and cognitive activity, but also provide a more positive view of aging. In a current project, we are investigating how negative age stereotypes that older people have about themselves can be counteracted. So far, there have been few successful ways to counteract such internalized stereotypes. In our project, we therefore pursue a novel approach. We investigate what influence nature can have on prejudices about one's own age. For more information: jana.nikitin@univie.ac.atselma.korlat@univie.ac.at, sarasvati.tina.zander@univie.ac.at.


Here you will find the data protection declaration of the University of Vienna as well as the data protection information of the Psychology of Aging department.