Although empathy is a well-established motivation in younger adults for helping others, it is not known whether this extends to aging. Prioritization of socioemotional goals with age may increase the salience of helping others (i.e., prosocial behavior), but older adults also experience decreased cognitive empathy. Thus, we investigated age-related differences in relationships among empathy and prosocial behavior.
Older adults showed greater prosocial behavior due to the empathy induction than younger adults. There was a positive association between state emotional empathy ratings and prosocial behavior in older, but not in younger adults, and preliminary evidence for higher state emotional empathy levels in older adults with higher trait cognitive empathy.
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