On the weekend of May 25-28, the Association for Psychological Science (APS) held its 2017 convention in Boston, Massachusetts. AgeLab researchers Chaiwoo Lee and Martina Raue gave presentations at the convention in a symposium titled “The Perception of the Self in the Future: Affect, Cognition and Implications for Decision-Making”, which was organized and chaired by Dr. Raue. The symposium also included presentations by Lisa Zaval of Columbia Business School on affective forecasting and by Eva Lermer of Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich on consideration of future consequences.
Dr. Lee gave an overview of an AgeLab study on the lexicon of retirement. The study asked participants to briefly describe their idea of "life after career" -- a less loaded synonym for retirement. Participants tended toward abstract, positive, emotion-related keywords in their descriptions. These tendencies were most apparent among younger people, for whom retirement was far away. These findings can be explained by way of a number of theories and constructs, including the Pollyanna Effect, temporal construal theory, and the influence of media and cultural narratives around retirement.
Dr. Raue presented results from an AgeLab study on perceptions of the future self. When participants between the ages of 18 and 69 were asked to identify three hopes and three fears for themselves at age 70, the primary idea in most people’s minds was centered around health - either the hope of remaining healthy or the fear of sickness. Health became even more prominent a concern as participants’ age increased. In regard to finances and saving for retirement, financial fears peaked at middle age. Those participants who had savings for retirement outside of Social Security were also more likely to report financial fears, had a clearer image of their future, and felt a closer connection to their future self at age 70 (controlling for age, gender, education and household income).
APS will publish coverage of the convention in its July/August Observer.