Reward motivates a particular action and discourages another and this observation appears to be applicable across all ages. Growing evidence, however, reveals that older adults could be less influenced by the consequences of their behavior than younger ones and suggests that reward has greater appeal to younger adults than to older adults. Related literature supported the view that older adults were less susceptible to motivation, such as financial gain, and that simple payoffs failed to elicit response from them (Sanford 1978 as qtd in Tripp). While young adults would be influenced by financial or social rewards, older people would prefer the acquisition of skill or learning.
The study was based on the responses of 31 younger adults and 31 older adults (Tripp 1999). The findings indicated that the reduced interest in reward was a direct consequence of the aging process (McCarthy 1991 as qtd in Tripp), and age-related changes in dopaminergic function could explain it. The neurotransmitter dopamine is believed to critically affect incentive learning and reinforce behavior. There was also some evidence that dopaminergic function decreased with age and the reduced sensitiveness to reward could directly result. Rewards and other incentives have always been believed to alter or influence performance. If sensitiveness to the frequency of reward decreases with increasing age, age-related performance could occur (Tripp).
According to this research, younger people were more drawn by external rewards than senior people (Tripp 1999). If behavioral change is the goal, it suggested longer and more frequent rewards could be necessary. This difference in susceptibility to rewards could also indicate susceptibility to punishment, meaning that young adults could be more responsive to discouragement through punishment than older adults.
The aspect of moral reasoning tasks could be one more significant difference between young adults and seniors. Piaget theorized that the individual had attained the peak of moral development around 15 years old and assumed that that peak would remain stable throughout life (McDonald 1996). The assumption derived from the premise that older children and adolescents would perform Piaget's moral tasks correctly and that older people would do the same. But other studies have shown that older adults performed less in tasks like conservation, classification and seriation, and animism as they did in traditional tests of childhood reasoning. Findings of these studies suggested that such tasks proved unsuitable to older adults because the tasks looked too simple to them.
A test conducted to evaluate earlier findings used the responses of 110 subjects, including 44 teenagers with a mean age of 14.7 and 29 senior individuals with a mean age of 71.1 from the Midlands of England (McDonald 1996). They were asked to read a pamphlet, containing Piaget's 35 stories on moral reasoning, which came from his collection entitled "The Moral Judgment of the Child." The stories were categorized into lying, collective responsibility, stealing, punishment, immanent justice, equality and authority and justice between children. Those stories on carelessness, lying and stealing stressed on the motives and the outcomes of such acts; those on equality, authority and justice between children centered on attitudes toward authority; the stories on punishment delved into the types suitable for certain misdeeds; those on collective responsibility dealt with ethical choice of the group or the individual; and those on immanent justice were about the connection between a misfortune and wrong behavior. Responses were classified and represented a high or low level of moral reasoning as Piaget's assessment standard for children (McDonald).
Major findings illustrated that teen-agers had a lower moral reasoning level than the elderly and that moral reasoning did not tend to decline with increasing age (McDonald 1996). They deviated from what Piaget's informal method and theory, which predicted that people attaining a certain developmental level would never look back. They rejected Piaget's belief that aging people would always change the moral views held when younger and incapable or disinclined to change them in old age (McDonald). In everyday actual life, these findings may not be experienced by the objective observer, though.
Young adults and senior individuals seem to differ also in their time perspective. American culture is powerfully future-directed and optimistic and the young embody its ideals. Aging people, in general, tend to ruminate and look back at the pas (Fingerman 1995)t. Constant or frequent recollection of the past is not viewed as something static but as a shift that aging individuals take. They are inclined to be nostalgic. On the other hand, young adults vigorously dream of the future (Kastenbaum 1963 as qtd in Fingerman). Other studies found that older people thought about the past and the future as age increased, while still other studies showed they thought less of both as they aged. But all of these agreed that younger adults thought of the future longer and more vibrantly than did seniors.
Some other researchers discovered that older adults were not passive subjects to development but attempted to control and optimize their development (Fingerman 1995). One way was to develop a sense of the future they aimed at and which derived from what they perceived would be their future. In contrast, younger adults demonstrated a larger future time perspective, especially in adolescence, because of the new goals and expectations presented by oncoming adulthood. Subjects of this last study included 23 women and 15 men aged 20 and 37 and between 60 and 81 years, whites, well-educated and across citizens' action, religious and political groups. Findings showed that all responds concentrated on the near future, but they suggested that younger adults considered that near future within the context of a more distant future. Thinking about the future links with the events of a person's life, whether younger or senior, but the number of recent and positive past events seems to offer one a sense of control over and the continuity of future events. If these are satisfying, they create a greater tendency to look to a more distant future (Strumpf 1987 and Thomae 1981 as qtd in Fingerman) and that, therefore, the difference was not age-related but subjective.
A sense of control was also linked with life events and the tendency to think distantly in terms of time (Fingerman 1995). Inversely, the lack of control suppressed thoughts about the distant future. If one did not feel control over present or immediate future life events, it would be unlikely for him or her to think beyond the present or the immediate future. The age differences unearthed by this last study pointed more to a function of the stage of life than the actual length or longevity of a person. Some studies suggested that discontinuity in viewing later life occurred more in younger adults, but this study found that it was more frequent in older age, i.e, at retirement and the occurrence of physical health changes. Although both younger and older adults thought about distant future events frequently, findings of this particular study tied the frequency to the perceived pleasantness of satisfaction over one's current life events, rather than as an inherent developmental phenomenon or stage. That satisfaction determined or structured one's sense of time, how happy the young or old person has been, where he or she is going, how much control he or she has over where she or he is going or whether he or she wants to stop somewhere along the future (Fingerman)
The physical body of a young adult is definitely different from that of a senior adult on account of changed perceptual, affective and cognitive elements (Cash and Prunzinsky 1990, Grogan 1999, Thomson, Heinberg, Altabee and Tantleff-Dunn 1999 as qtd in Halliwell 2003). Body dissatisfaction among women subjects aged 18-25 on account of socio-cultural pressures has been heavily documented and men's perception has not been adequately tested or observed. Previous studies, however, assumed that young men were as concerned about their body image as young women. Further studies enhanced these assumptions that women consistently expressed body dissatisfaction from adolescence to adulthood. According to interviews, even young women who thought that the cultural ideals of attractiveness were unachievable still persisted in attaining them. On the other hand, young men were not so much concerned with attractive appearance as their female counterparts, but aspired to be not noticeably different from peers (Grogan 1999 and Ogden 1992 as qtd in Halliwell). Socio-cultural pressures on men's body image have, however, been increasing and calling more attention to body image.
Forty interviews with 20 young women and 22 young men were conducted on their concept of the body or body image (Halliwell 2003). The young men typically saw their body as a single unit, while the young women perceived it as composed of many parts and focused on them as sites. Young women's tendency to focus on these parts or sites appeared to produce negative effects on the body as a whole. This body concept by young adults differed from that of older adults in that older ones felt the impact of socio-cultural pressures on attractiveness less than young adults did.…