Age-specific (social) motivation

Based on theories of self-regulation in development, we investigate the role of social objectives in the successful development and maintenance of social relationships up to old age. In this context, we distinguish between the motivation to reach desired social conditions (approach goals) and the motivation to avoid undesired social conditions (avoidance goals). Our studies show that social approach goals are adaptive when coping with developmental tasks, especially in adolescents. Social avoidance goals, on the other hand, become less adaptive with increasing age. We are currently focusing on specific mechanisms that provide the basis for the age-specific adaptivity of social goals. Based on findings from studies comparing different age groups, we develop interventions aimed at promoting adaptive social behaviour in old age. 

In addition, we include new areas, in particular the preparation for old age, into our research on motivational orientation. Are adolescents more likely to be motivated to prepare for old age by approach goals, while older adults are motivated by avoidance goals? Initial results show that the answer to this question depends on the areas of life. Findings from this research provide important insights for the field of retirement provision.

Antecedents to and consequences of negative conceptions of age

Another major research focus is the investigation of negative conceptions of age, their antecedents and their consequences. Conceptions of age include both stereotypes about elderly people as a group as well as the anticipation of the own age(ing). We investigate the role of expectations that people have about retirement provision in their country. Initial results confirm the assumption that a discrepancy between expectations and the reality of the care situation for elderly people leads to negative conceptions of age. Negative conceptions of age, in turn, reduce the willingness to prepare for old age. Therefore, research in this area has major socio-political implications. 

In this field of research, we also investigate negative conceptions of age as antecedents to social goals. In this context, we are currently examining how social goals of older employees change when they internalise the negative stereotypes about age. The internalisation of negative conceptions of age can cause older employees to withdraw from the labour market, including the associated personal, social and economic consequences.

Social activities and health in old age

Our third research focus deals with the use of mobile technologies that enable the investigation of social and health-related behaviour in old age. Our aim is to use mobile technologies to identify the social context and relate it to health-related behaviour. Based on models of social control of healthy behaviour, we investigate how social activities and health influence each other in everyday life.