Date of Award

Summer 8-2019

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Master of Arts (AM/MA)

Degree Type



Humans are social creatures and, as such, can be motivated by aspects of social life, like approval from others, to guide decision-making in everyday life. Indeed, a common view in the aging literature is that older adults have a stronger orientation towards socioemotional goals or incentives, relative to other incentive modalities, like money, because of changing motivational priorities in older adulthood. In prior work, however, we found that older adults actually showed greater effects of monetary relative to primary (liquid) incentives, suggesting alternative interpretations of impaired motivational integration and/or slower adaptation to incentive conditions. The current study tested these alternatives, comparing monetary to more clearly socioemotional incentives (social feedback in the form of positive, neutral or negatively valenced short video clips), while also providing greater practice under incentives to older adults. The results clearly indicate no effect of task practice on incentive effects, while also supporting an interpretation of impaired motivational integration whereby older adults show no effect of either monetary or social incentives on task performance. Moreover, in a follow-up experiment, we also demonstrate that social incentives, relative to primary incentives (liquid), show weaker motivational effects on task performance and self-reported affect and motivation ratings in younger adults, calling into question the effectiveness of social incentives in motivating cognitive behaviors across the adult life span.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Todd Braver

Committee Members

Tammy English, Denise Head


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/hh6a-rt96