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Article

The Development of Prosociality: Evidence for a Negative Association between Age and Prosocial Value Orientation from a Representative Sample in Austria

1
Institute of Sociology, University of Zurich, 8050 Zurich, Switzerland
2
Faculty of Psychology, University of Vienna, 1030 Vienna, Austria
3
Department of Psychology and Copenhagen Center for Social Data Science (SODAS), University of Copenhagen, 1353 Copenhagen K, Denmark
4
Business Analytics and Data Science-Center, University of Graz, 8010 Graz, Austria
5
Department of Corporate Leadership and Entrepreneurship, University of Graz, 8010 Graz, Austria
6
Max Planck Research Group “Mechanisms of Normative Change”, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, 53113 Bonn, Germany
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Vincent Buskens, Rense Corten, Wojtek Przepiorka, Werner Raub and Ulrich Berger
Received: 15 March 2021 / Revised: 3 September 2021 / Accepted: 7 September 2021 / Published: 15 September 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Research on Social Dilemmas)
While the ontogeny of prosociality during infancy, childhood, and adolescence has received substantial attention over the last decades, little is known about how prosocial preferences develop beyond emerging adulthood. Recent evidence suggests that the previously observed positive association between age and prosocial preferences is less robust than assumed. This study reports results on the association between social preferences, age, gender, and education from an Austrian representative sample (N = 777, aged 16–94 years) in which incentivized social value orientations (SVO) were measured along with various other sociodemographic characteristics. The analyses confirm that men are less prosocial than women, however, mainly during emerging adulthood (16–25 years). At the same time, the decline of prosociality is stronger among women leading to a convergence of prosociality between men and women as they age. Overall, we find that a prosocial value orientation is negatively correlated with people’s age. We suspect that the susceptibility of peoples’ social preferences to the preferences of others in their social environment is a critical factor unifying these different observations in the development of prosociality. We hypothesize that the opposite associations between age and SVO observed in two previous studies using unincentivized measures of social preferences are explained in parts by an age-related change in social desirability, measurement inaccuracy (continuous vs. categorical), and cross-cultural differences promoting competitive preferences among emerging adults in Japan. Moreover, we find that political orientations towards right-wing populists are consistently associated with less prosocial preferences, while education seems to be positively associated with prosociality. Overall, our study highlights the importance of conducting representative studies using incentivized measurements across cultures. View Full-Text
Keywords: human altruism; ontogeny of prosociality; representative sample; incentivized field experiments; age-related differences human altruism; ontogeny of prosociality; representative sample; incentivized field experiments; age-related differences
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MDPI and ACS Style

Ehlert, A.; Böhm, R.; Fleiß, J.; Rauhut, H.; Rybnicek, R.; Winter, F. The Development of Prosociality: Evidence for a Negative Association between Age and Prosocial Value Orientation from a Representative Sample in Austria. Games 2021, 12, 67. https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/g12030067

AMA Style

Ehlert A, Böhm R, Fleiß J, Rauhut H, Rybnicek R, Winter F. The Development of Prosociality: Evidence for a Negative Association between Age and Prosocial Value Orientation from a Representative Sample in Austria. Games. 2021; 12(3):67. https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/g12030067

Chicago/Turabian Style

Ehlert, Alexander, Robert Böhm, Jürgen Fleiß, Heiko Rauhut, Robert Rybnicek, and Fabian Winter. 2021. "The Development of Prosociality: Evidence for a Negative Association between Age and Prosocial Value Orientation from a Representative Sample in Austria" Games 12, no. 3: 67. https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/g12030067

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