Social Discounting in the Elderly: Senior Citizens are Good Samaritans to Strangers

Narun Pornpattananangkul, Avijit Chowdhury, Lei Feng, Rongjun Yu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives People tend to become more generous as they grow older, which may reflect an increase in their ego-transcending motives (i.e., concern more for the benefit of recipients than of the benefactors). The current study aimed to examine evidence for an enhanced ego-transcending motive among older adults. Methods We adapted the social-discounting framework to quantify generosity toward people of different social distances, ranging from socially close others (e.g., family and close friends) to socially distant others (e.g., total strangers), in both young and older adults. We hypothesized that the normative decrease in generosity as a function of social distance (e.g., less generous towards strangers compared to close friends) will be mitigated in older adults. Results Our results supported that older adults were more generous toward socially distant others (i.e., less social discounting) compared to younger adults. Discussion Thus, consistent with the idea that the elderly are more oriented to ego-transcending goals, older adults are generous even when their generosity is unlikely to be reciprocated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-58
Number of pages7
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

User-Defined Keywords

  • Aging
  • Altruism
  • Ego transcendence
  • Generosity
  • Prosociality
  • Social Discounting


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