, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 85-100

Young and Old Adults' Concerns About Morality and Competence

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Two experiments were conducted to examine people's sensitivity to person information from the morality domain (relation-oriented) and the competence domain (task & achievement-oriented). In a lexical decision paradigm, the findings from Experiment 1 showed that younger adults were faster to identify person cues (trait words) from the morality than from the competence domain, especially cues that were related to immorality. Experiment 2 compared the responses of younger and older adults. Despite the slower responses of the older adults, the findings indicated that all participants were faster at identifying cues from the morality domain than from the competence domain, with no age interactions. The results from Experiment 2 also suggested that disparate findings in the literature regarding reaction times to morality/competence cues and valence (positive or negative) were a function of word frequency effects. The findings are discussed in terms of people's chronic concern with the moral aspects of others as invariant across the lifespan, given that the morality domain is where interpersonal costs and threats are most likely to be signaled.