"Time is Money": Examining the Influence of Temporal Focus Across the Adult Lifespan
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Seniors represent the fastest growing demographic in Canada. Internationally, it is projected that the world’s senior population will continue to increase over the next several decades. Thus, more research is needed in order to better understand the specific needs and motives of this important age group. The present research documents how the concept of time influences the thoughts, preferences, and behavioral intentions of older and younger adults. Study 1 reported that older adults devoted significantly more attention towards the present compared to the past and future, while younger adults showed a small preference towards the future. Moreover, older adults’ reduced sense of time remaining in life led to them devoting less time to the future. Surprisingly, sense of time remaining in life also significantly suppressed the relationship between age and present temporal focus. That is, an increased sense of time remaining in life was actually associated with more present focus among seniors. Study 2 investigated the downstream consequences of temporal focus by examining older and younger adults’ motivation for present- and future-focused jobs in the organizational behavior context. Findings revealed that older adults showed a distinct preference for present-focused job opportunities over future-focused ones, whereas younger individuals reported the opposite pattern. In Studies 3 and 4, we moved beyond mental investment in different temporal periods and examined how older and younger adults’ views towards the past and the future influenced their preferences and choices in a consumer behavior context. Results from Study 3 indicated that older adults responded more favorably to persuasive advertisements presented with a past focus compared to future-focused and control ads (i.e., no temporal focus), while younger adults actually rated the control ads higher than both the past- and future-focused ones. Furthermore, positive general views of the past mediated the relationship between age and preferences past-focused advertisements. Finally, Study 4 reported that the findings observed in Study 3 were associated with overt differences in behavioral intentions within a hypothetical purchasing scenario. Specifically, older adults opted for a past-focused product more frequently (68%) than a future-focused product (32%), with younger adults showing no distinct pattern in their choices.