Time Perspective and Social Preference in Older and Younger Adults: Effects of Self-Regulatory Fatigue

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Socioemotional selectivity theory predicts that when perceived time in life is limited, people will prefer emotionally close social partners over less emotionally rewarding partners. Regulating social choices with regard to time perspective can make the best use of time with regard to well-being. However, doing so may depend on the self-regulatory capacity of the individual. Two studies, 1 with younger adults (N = 101) and 1 with younger (N = 42) and older (N = 39) adults, experimentally tested the effects of time perspective and self-regulatory fatigue on preferences for emotionally close partners and knowledgeable partners. In both studies and across younger and older adults, when self-regulatory fatigue was low, the perception of limited time resulted in a greater preference for close social partners relative to knowledgeable social partners. However, this shift was eliminated by self-regulatory fatigue. In Study 2, when fatigued, younger adults preferred close social partners to knowledgeable partners across time perspectives; older adults preferred close and knowledgeable partners more equally across time perspectives. These findings have implications for social decision-making and satisfaction among people who experience chronic self-regulatory fatigue. They also contradict previous suggestions that only younger adults are susceptible to self-regulatory fatigue.

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