The End Is (Not) Near: Aging, Essentialism, and Future Time Perspective

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Abstract

Beliefs about aging influence how we interpret and respond to changes within and around us. Essentialist beliefs about aging are defined as views that link chronological age with inherent and immutable properties underlying aging-related changes. These beliefs may influence the experience of aging-related changes and shape people’s outlook of the future. We hypothesized that people who endorse essentialist beliefs about aging report a more limited future time perspective. Two studies provided correlational (Study 1, N = 250; 18–77 years) and experimental (Study 2, N = 103; 20–77 years) evidence that essentialist beliefs about aging affect people’s future time perspective. In addition, Study 2 and Study 3 (N = 174; 34–67 years) tested the underlying mechanism and provided evidence that perception of aging-related threat explains the effect of essentialist beliefs on a reduced future time perspective. These findings highlight the fundamental role of essentialist beliefs about aging for the perception of time horizons in the context of aging.

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