2. Motivation & Social Processing Goals
• Personal Goals
• Emotion as a Processing Goal
• Cognitive Style as a Processing
3. Motivation & Social Processing Goals
• Goals change during development:
• Young Adults = Achievement
• Middle Age = Balance
• Functioning Independently
• Sharing w Others
• Older Adults = Reevaluation
• Selective Optimization with
4. Motivation & Social Processing Goals
• Priorities Shift = Goals Change
• Memory / Obstacle Course Study
(Li, Lindenberger, Freund, & Baltes, 2001)
• Resource investment choice:
• Younger = Maximum performance
• Older = Maintain Status Quo
5. Motivation & Social Processing Goals
Emotion as a Processing Goal
• Socioemotional Selectivity with Aging
(Carstensen & Fried, 2012)
• Motivational Model
• Older = Emphasize Emotional Goals
• Avoid Negative
• Focus on Positive
• Decision, Memory, Attention &
Impression Formation Studies
6. Motivation & Social Processing Goals
Cognitive Style as a Processing Goal
• Cognitive Style: how we approach
• Need for Closure = Decisive Answer
and little tolerance for ambiguity
• Studies show it affects older adults
but not young and middle aged adults
(Hess, Waters, and Bolstad, 2000)
• Conserves resources
8. Personal Control
• What is Personal Control?
• Effort = Outcome
• Guides behavior / well-being
• Role in memory, depression,
adjustment to and survival in
• Perceived Control Study
(Grob, Little, and Wanner, 1999)
9. Personal Control
• Brandstadter’s Theory of Control - 3 Interdependent Processes:
1. Assimilative Activities – prevent/alleviate losses in personally relevant domains
2. Accommodations – readjust goals to neutralize negative self-evaluations
3. Immunizing Mechanisms – alter self-discrepant evidence
10. Personal Control
• Heckhausen & Schulz Control as Motivational System
• Primary Control – Action applied to external world
• Secondary Control – Cognitive activities directed at the self
• What if you lost your job / income?
• Primary Control Strategies?
• Secondary Control Strategies?
• Which strategy is more adaptive / valuable?
11. Personal Control
• What happens as we grow older?
• Childhood – Middle Age (Primary Controls increase then stabilize)
• Middle Age – Old Age (Secondary Controls increase)
• How do control strategies and beliefs affect emotional well-being?
• Important to positive / negative well-being – Life-stage Differences
• Young–Middle Age - How we compensate for failure
• Older Adults – How everyday demands are mastered
• All Ages – Planning for future = Satisfaction
12. Personal Control
• Criticism of Primary Control
• Life-cycle Not Coping with Blocked
Goals (Carstensen and Freund, 1994)
• Western Cultural Bias
• Asian Cultures – Interdependence
with Others (Gould, 1999)
13. Social Situations & Social Competence
• Collaborative Cognition
• Social Context of Memory
• Social Policy Implications
14. Social Situations & Social Competence
Collaborative Cognition: 2+ people working together on cognitive task
• Performance improves with a collaborative context
• Problem solving
• Planning & Decision-making
• Pitfalls of Collaboration
• Selfishness, honesty, and need fulfillment
15. Social Situations & Social Competence
Social Context and Memory
Social Facilitation of Cognition
• Performance improves when task approximates a real-world experience
(Adams et al., 2002)
• Social Context
• Storytelling / Story-recall is better in Older adults
16. Social Situations & Social Competence
Social Policy Implications
Current Social Policy Implications / Improvements for Older Adults
• In the Workplace?
• Health Policies?
• Enhancing treatment of population?
Your Ideas / Other Questions / Concerns?
17. Review Questions that Apply
1. What are the results of Adams et al.’s study on storytelling?
2. Which factors are important to understanding how older adults process
3. What is Heckhausen et al. theory of personal control development?
4. What does Brandtstadter thinks about cognitive processes?
5. What is collaborative cognition?
6. What are the implicit theories and how does this affects decision making?
We’re going to cover three sub-topics of social cognition. While these are presented in the second half of the text and may draw in part on some of the concepts covered in the first half, those topics will be covered more in depth next week with Kayla’s presentation.
In order to discuss motivation and the social processing of goals as it pertains to adult development and aging, we must first define and understand the personal goals of the individual, the influence of emotion and cognitive style on socially processing those goals.
Across the life span, personal goals change to match our needs:
Young Adults focus on achievement (i.e. pursuing college degree, or career advancement)
In Middle Age we look for balance between functioning independently and sharing our lives with others (i.e. maintaining self-identity while sharing our life with a spouse or children)
As we become Older Adults we continue to balance our personal goals, but also tend to reevaluate the importance of that balance:
Selective Optimization with Compensation theory posits that development occurs as we continuously update our personal goals to match our appraisal of available resources to obtain those goals, choosing manageable goals based on our interests as well as physical and cognitive strengths and limitations. As we grow older our limitations become more salient and require us to reevaluate our interests. There is a shift toward physical health and socio-emotional domains.
As priorities shift, goals for the same event may be perceived differently by older and younger adults:
In a study designed to examine how younger and older adults prioritize how they want to perform in a dual-task situation, both young and older adults were asked to memorize a list of words while simultaneously maintaining their balance as they walked through an obstacle course.
When given the choice, older adults chose to forgo aids to improve their memory (e.g. lists) and instead chose to use aids designed to optimize walking performance (e.g. handrail). When deciding what was more important to them, memory performance vs. balance, older adults displayed a preference for their physical safety even if it meant they would perform badly on the cognitive test (which they did).
While younger adults are motivated to achieve maximum performance, older adults prefer to maintain steady performance by optimizing their current resources rather than risking loss with unknown strategies.
Theory of Socioemotional Selectivity with Aging maintains that emotional goals become increasingly important and salient as we grow older.
It is primarily a motivational model, which posits that the degree to which an individual construes time as limited or expansive leads to the ranking of emotional or knowledge-seeking goals as high in priority, respectively. Given limited time left in the life span, older adults may be more motivated to emphasize emotional goals and aspects of life.
Various studies suggest that older adults avoid negative information and focus more on positive information when making decisions and judgments and when remembering events:
when shown a series of images, older adults remember more positive images than negative ones;
when measuring attention to stimuli, older adults allocate less attention to negative stimuli;
and older adults are found to be more influenced by negative information when forming impressions.
Another type of motivational goal that can influence our thinking comes from our cognitive style, or how we approach solving problems.
People with a high need for closure prefer order and predictability, are uncomfortable with ambiguity, are closed-minded, and prefer quick and decisive answers
Research on this construct has resulted in the development of questionnaires such as the Need for Closure scale and the Personal Need for Structure scale
Hess and colleagues argue that changes in resources with aging (e.g. decline in working memory) may lead to an increase in a need for closure with age. This can lead to biases in the way in which older adults process social information.
Hess and colleagues found that high need for closure did not influence susceptibility to emotional priming influences on neutral stimuli of young and middle-age adults; however, priming effects increased with higher need for structure in older adults. In other words, older adults with a high need for closure could not inhibit the affects of an emotional prime (e.g. a subliminally presented negative word) on their subsequent behavior (e.g. whether they liked or disliked an abstract figure)
Because of age-related changes in personal resources (social and cognitive), motivational factors such as coming to quick and decisive answers to conserve resources becomes important to the aging adult.
Next we’ll discuss the sub-topic of Personal Control, its multidimensionality, control strategies, and some of the criticism regarding primary control.
Personal control is the degree to which one believes that performance depends on something one does. (effort = outcome)
We’ve learned that personal control is important in a wide variety of settings because of the way in which it guides behavior and relates to well-being.
Evidence suggests that personal control plays a role in memory performance, intelligence, depression, and in adjustment to and survival in institutions. We’ve learned that people develop several strategies concerning personal control in order to protect a positive self-image.
The general consensus about personal control is that it is multidimensional: meaning one’s sense of control depends on which domain, such as intelligence or health, is being assessed. Age differences in the degree of personal control depend on the domain being studied.
The perceived control study done by Grob, Little, and Wanner, in 1999 found an increase for perceived control for social (harmony within a close relationship) and personal (personal appearance) issues up to early middle age, and thereafter there was a general decline into old age. However, perceived control over societal (natural environment) issues was low across the adult life span, with a slight decrease in older adulthood.
A number of theoretical approaches examine control-related strategies:
Brandtstadter proposes that the preservation and stabilization of a positive view of the self and personal development in later life involve three interdependent processes:
First, people engage in assimilative activities that prevent or alleviate losses in domains that are personally relevant for self-esteem and identity (e.g. people may use memory aids more if having a good memory is an important aspect of self-esteem).
Second, people make accommodations and readjust their goals and aspirations as a way to lessen or neutralize the effects of negative self-evaluations in key domains (e.g. if a person notices that the time it takes to walk a mile at a brisk pace has increased, then the target time can be increased to help lessen the impact of feelings of failure).
Third, people use immunizing mechanisms that alter the effects of self-discrepant evidence (e.g. a person who is confronted with evidence that his or her memory performance has declined can look for alternative explanations or simply deny the evidence in order to be less effected).
Heckhausen & Schulz view control as a motivational system that regulates human behavior over the life span, in other words, individuals’ ability to control important outcomes:
Like Brandstadter’s assimilative activities, primary control involves bringing the environment into line with one’s desires and goals. Action is directed toward changing the external world.
Like Brandstadter’s accommodation, secondary control involves bringing oneself in line with the environment. It typically involves cognitive activities directed at the self
What if you lost your job and, and with it your income?
Primary control strategies would involve searching for another job – changing the environment so you once again have steady income.
Secondary control strategies might involve appraising the situation in terms of how you really did not enjoy that particular job and something different is better for you anyway.
An important part of this theoretical perspective is that primary control has functional primacy over secondary control. Primary control allows people to shape their environment to fit their goals and developmental potential. The major function of secondary control is to minimize losses or expand levels of primary control.
Heckhausen & Schulz believe control strategies have important implications for aging. What do you think happens as we develop and decline?
In childhood they find that much development is directed at expanding the child’s primary control potential.
They predict stability in primary control striving through most of adult life.
As we enter old age the maintenance of primary control increasingly depends on secondary control processes (interdependence). This is due to threats to primary control as a function of biological decline. Research shows that secondary control does indeed increase with age.
How control strategies affect our emotional well-being is important. As you might guess studies suggest that control beliefs are important contributors to both positive and negative well-being. But it does vary with life-stage:
For young and middle-aged adults, a strong sense of control relates to how we compensate for failure (e.g. we can overcome this momentary failure)
Older adults focus a sense of control on how to master everyday demands.
For all age groups, planning for the future enhances one’s sense of perceived control, and in turn relates to high life satisfaction.
The whole notion of increases in accommodative strategies and secondary strategies in older age is not without criticism:
Carstensen and Freund (1994) question whether losses people experience, though real, actually threaten the self. They argue that age-related changes in goals could also be the result of natural movement through life-cycle, not simply of coping with blocked goals.
Additionally there is much criticism regarding a bias toward Western cultures, that these findings may not exist in other cultures.
Stephen J. Gould suggest that in collectivist societies such as those found in Asia, the emphasis is not on individualistic strategies like those found in primary control theory. Instead, the goal is to establish interdependence with others, to be connected to them and bound to a larger social institution. In fact, throughout adulthood, Asian cultures exceed Western cultures in levels of secondary control and emotion-focused coping.
There is a growing interest in how the social context might affect the various domains of development and aging. This section will examine two approaches to this issue: collaborative cognition and the social context of memory. Finally we’ll consider the implications of social policy.
Collaborative Cognition is simply when two or more people work together on a cognitive task.
Current research shows that collaborative cognition enhances older adults’ performance on a variety of memory and problem-solving tasks, thus serving a very important adaptive function for older adults.
Specifically, when older adults collaborate on story recall as well as problem-solving performance, they do better than older adults individually.
In fact older married couples performed just as well on recall tasks as younger couples. (They know each other well and are able to utilize their facilities effectively).
Also there is evidence that collaboration helps with everyday activities like errand running, planning outings or vacations, and making decisions.
There are some costs to collaboration however:
There is the potential for selfishness, withholding of one’s honest opinion, and not meeting the other partner’s needs.
The second approach to identifying conditions under which social facilitation of cognition in older adults occurs is in examining contextual variables that influence memory performance.
Cynthia Adams argues that memory performance is influenced when the task approximates a real-world learning and social memory experience.
(e.g. Because the transmission of sociocultural information to a younger generation is a relevant real-world cognitive task, the older adult is motivated to communicate effectively. Therefore, they do better at recall even when asked to imagine this situation rather than simply being asked to recall story details in a typical lab setting).
This demonstrates the importance of taking into consideration the social context of a task situation when examining change in cognitive functioning as we grow older.
The research and approaches on social cognition reviewed here emphasize why it is important to consider social factors to explain cognitive functioning in older adulthood.
By considering these factors we can explore the conditions under which older adults flourish and the conditions where we need to focus aid and attention.
This has important policy implications with respect to how we treat older adults in the workforce, establishing health policies, and enhancing the treatment of our older adult population.
Considering what we’ve discussed today, can anyone identify how our social policy might be improved or what aspects of social cognition might benefit from further investigation?
Workplace: group assignments – change context – realize necessity of secondary control
Health Policies: alter nursing home to be more like group living
Treatment: encourage multi-generational interdependence (family help)
Or are there any questions about the material I can try to answer for you?