Counting Down While Time Flies: Implications of Age-Related Time Acceleration for Goal Pursuit Across Adulthood

Curr Opin Psychol. 2019 Apr;26:85-89. doi: 10.1016/j.copsyc.2018.07.001. Epub 2018 Jul 10.


Socioemotional selectivity theory (SST) is a life-span theory of motivation grounded in the subjective awareness of human mortality. The cardinal postulate is that time horizons shape the relative priority placed on emotionally meaningful and knowledge-seeking goals. Because goals are always set in temporal contexts, and time left in life is inversely related to chronological age, SST predicts systematic age differences in goal pursuit. The theory has garnered considerable empirical support. In this paper, we consider the role of age-related time acceleration on goal setting and argue that it may interact with the more gradual age-related changes in time horizons presumed in SST. If so, the favoring of emotionally meaningful goals may follow an exponential (as opposed to linear) function across adulthood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Motivation*
  • Psychological Theory
  • Time Perception*