According to new research from the University of Birmingham, led by researchers from the University’s School of Psychology, older people would be more philanthropic than younger people .
This study is unique in the sense that it studies prosocial behavior, focusing on people’s willingness to exert themselves physically, rather than giving money or time, to help others.
Prosocial physical exertion
For the study, the team evaluated a group of 95 adults ages 18 to 36 and a group of 92 adults ages 55 to 85. Each participant made 150 decisions about whether or not to grip a hand dynamometer , a device for measuring grip strength, with 6 different levels of force.
Before the experiment, the researchers measured the maximum grip strength of each person, to make sure that the effort that people had to do was the same for all and was not affected by the strength of the people.
For each decision, participants were told whether they would work to earn money for themselves or for someone else . They were first asked to decide whether they would be willing to make an effort to earn money or not. If they accepted the offer, they had to exert enough force to get the money.
The results showed that when the task was easy, young and old adults were equally willing to work for others, but when the task was more demanding, older adults were more willing to work to help others .
In contrast, younger adults were more selfish and much more likely to try harder to benefit themselves.