Stanford University

Imagining but not confronting one’s future self may improve views of old age

Raposo, S., Sims, T., Bailenson, J.N. & Carstensen, L. (2016) Imagining but not confronting one’s future self may improve views of old age, The Gerontologist 56 (Suppl3) doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnw162.2550

Abstract

Views of old age are largely negative (North & Fiske, 2012), which impact how we treat older adults. We hypothesized that tasks designed to decrease psychological distance to future selves would improve views of old age. Undergraduates (N=172) wrote about who they are now, who they will be in 5 years, or who they will be in 40 years. Those who wrote about their distant future self anticipated better quality of life in old age and used more positive words to describe older people. In a second study, undergraduates (N=82) who embodied a digital avatar of their future self (approximately 70 years old) anticipated poorer quality of life in old age compared to those who embodied their current self or a control condition. Thinking about one’s future self may improve views of old age, but being confronted with the physical nature of one’s own aging may encourage negative views.

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