New Content From Current Directions in Psychological Science

Do We Become More Prosocial as We Age, and if So, Why?
Ulrich Mayr and Alexandra M. Freund

Why do older adults appear to contribute more to the common good than younger adults? Mayr and Freund argue that this difference, and prosocial behavior in general, can be understood by using a value-based decision framework. Such a framework highlights how life-span changes in motivation and resources may explain why older adults show increased concern for other people’s well-being. Specifically, the researchers weigh factors that change across the life span, such as resources (e.g., financial) and constraints (e.g., health), motivational orientations, and benefits and costs of prosocial behaviors, finding that these values determine older adults’ prosocial behaviors.

Seed and Soil: Psychological Affordances in Contexts Help to Explain Where Wise Interventions Succeed or Fail
Gregory M. Walton and David S. Yeager

Walton and Yeager consider the importance of social context for the success of psychological interventions. They suggest that for an intervention to have long-lasting effects, the context in which the intervention is delivered must afford the way of thinking offered by the intervention. They use a gardening metaphor: Psychological change requires planting good seeds (appropriate intervention) in fertile soil in which those seeds can grow (appropriate context). For example, to increase consumption of healthy foods in a dining hall, one might add enticing labels to healthy food. But the dining hall would also have to provide tasty healthy dishes.

Formal and Informal Supports for Managing Work and Family
Kimberly A. French and Kristen M. Shockley

French and Shockley review evidence involving types of support intended to help adults manage work and family, including informal support from coworkers and family and formal organizational and national support policies. They suggest that informal support is moderately associated with better work-family experiences and that evidence for benefits from formal support policies is weak. Given this scenario, the researchers explore different paths to a better understanding of how and when supports may help individuals manage work and family responsibilities.

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