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Prosociality in Adult Development and Aging - Special Issue of Psychology and Ageing

Submission Deadlines

  • Deadline for One-Page Proposal: May 1, 2019
  • Deadline for Full Manuscript: July 1, 2019

Special Issue Editors

  • Natalie C. Ebner, University of Florida, Gainesville, USA
  • Phoebe E. Bailey, Western Sydney University, Sydney, Australia
  • Elizabeth A. L. Stine-Morrow, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign


Psychology and Aging invites submissions for a special section dedicated to the examination of continuity and change of prosocial thought and action with adult development and aging.

The goal of the special issue is to facilitate the identification of future research perspectives and to spur innovative hypotheses and research paradigms.

We encourage submissions that contribute to a multi-methodological, multi-faceted, and multidisciplinary approach to understanding the nature of prosociality that combines social-cognitive with developmental, neuroscience, and evolutionary perspectives.

We see potential for this line of work to advance developmental theory and to clarify pressing societal questions with relevance for individual lives of older adults (e.g., avoidance of situations with potential for exploitation; conditions under which adults of different ages are most likely to volunteer time and resources with maximized benefit to their health and well-being).

Appropriate submissions include, but are not limited to, those that

  • determine early lifespan precursors to prosociality in adulthood and aging
  • examine age variations across subfacets of prosocial processes (e.g., cognitive versus affective empathy, financial vs. social trust)
  • identify context dependency in prosocial tendencies (e.g., social context, emotional quality, age-relevance, in-group vs. out-group effects, intergenerational and/or cultural variations)
  • address the neurobiological mechanisms for continuity or change in prosociality throughout adult development and aging

Phenomena may be studied in the context of the laboratory or of real-life settings.

Papers are expected to further advance what is known about prosociality and aging by advancing novel concepts, theories, and/or methodology.

We encourage reflections of the real-world impact of this research.

The emphasis of this special issue is on publication of empirical articles, but critical, systematic, or meta-analytic reviews will also be considered.

Authors who intend to submit a manuscript to the special issue should send a one-page proposal to Natalie Ebner by May 1, 2019.

Articles in this special section will be reviewed following the standard peer review process and are expected to meet the standards and follow the guidelines for publication in Psychology and Aging.

Submission deadline for the full manuscript is July 1, 2019.

This special section is expected to be published in Spring 2020.


Prosociality refers to voluntary thought and action intended to benefit others or society as a whole such as helping, comforting, sharing, and cooperating.

Prosocial thought and action entail a variety of biological, motivational, cognitive, and social processes that cover diverse phenomena including empathy, altruism, generativity, reciprocity, cooperation, and trust.

There is emerging evidence that despite cognitive decline, various facets of prosociality remain intact or even increase with age.

This may be because prosociality largely relies on accumulated life experience, and thus crystallized components of cognition, which are less influenced by resource limitations associated with aging.

However, currently, research on prosociality and aging is scarce, limiting scientific knowledge about continuity and change across the adult lifespan, as well as understanding of motivators and underlying mechanisms of prosociality and its outcomes in older individuals (Bailey, Brady, Ebner, & Ruffman, 2018; Beadle, Sheehan, Dahlben, & Gutchess, 2015; Ebner, Bailey, Horta, Joiner, Chang, 2017; Hubbard, Harbaugh, Srivastava, Degras, & Mayr, 2016; Matsumoto, Yamagishi, Li, & Kiyonari, 2016).


  • Bailey, P. E., Brady, B., Ebner, N. C., & Ruffman, T. (2018). Effects of age on emotion regulation, emotional empathy, and prosocial behavior. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences B. doi:10.1093/geronb/gby084.
  • Beadle, J. N., Sheehan, A. H., Dahlben, B., & Gutchess, A. H. (2015). Aging, empathy, and prosociality. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences B, 70. 213–222.
  • Ebner, N. C., Bailey, P. E., Horta, M., Joiner, J., & Chang, S. W. C. (2017). Multidisciplinary perspective on prosociality in aging. In J. A. Sommerville & J. Decety (Eds.), Social Cognition: Developmental across the life span (pp. 303–325). Routledge: Taylor and Francis Group.
  • Hubbard, J., Harbaugh, W.T., Srivastava, S., Degras, D., & Mayr, U. (2016). A general benevolence dimension that links neural, psychological, economic, and life-span data on altruistic tendencies. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 145(10), 1351.
  • Matsumoto, Y., Yamagishi, T., Li, Y., & Kiyonari,T. (2016). Prosocial behavior increases with age across five economic games. PLOS One. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0158671

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