Ageing increases prosocial motivation for effort

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Ayat Abdurahman
  • Daniel Drew
  • Marin Tamm
  • Masud Husain


Social cohesion relies on prosociality in increasingly ageing populations. Helping others requires effort, yet how willing people are to exert effort to benefit ourselves and others, and whether such behaviours shift across the lifespan, is poorly understood. Using computational modelling we tested the willingness to exert effort into ‘self’ or ‘other’ benefitting acts in younger (age 18-36) and older adults (55-84, n=187). Participants chose whether to work and exert effort, (between 30-70% of maximum grip strength) for rewards (2-10 credits) accrued for themselves or prosocially for another. Younger adults were somewhat selfish, choosing to work more at higher effort levels for themselves, and exerted less force into prosocial, compared to self-benefitting, work. Strikingly, compared to younger adults, older people were more willing to put in effort for others and exerted equal force for self and other. Increased prosociality in older people has important implications for human behaviour and societal structure.

Bibliographic note

Not yet published as of 14/04/2021.


Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalPsychological Science
Early online date16 Apr 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Apr 2021