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Association between age and intellectual curiosity: the mediating roles of future time perspective and importance of curiosity

Abstract

This study aimed to examine the underlying mechanism behind the association of age and intellectual curiosity. Previous studies generally showed a negative association between age and intellectual curiosity. To shed light on this association, we hypothesize that older adults become more selective in where they invest their curiosity compared with younger adults. The present study (N = 857) first examined the association between age and intellectual curiosity and then the mediation roles of future time perspective and perceived importance of curiosity in the association. The moderation effect of culture was also included to test the generalizability of this model across European Americans, Chinese Americans, and Hong Kong Chinese. The findings suggested that there was a significant negative association between age and intellectual curiosity, even after controlling for sex, culture, and education level. The moderated serial multiple mediation model demonstrated that the indirect effect of age on curiosity through future time perspective and importance of curiosity was significant across all three cultural groups while age did not have a direct effect on intellectual curiosity. This finding suggested that, as future time becomes more limited with age, curiosity is less valued; hence, curiosity is negatively associated with the advance of age. This study illustrates the importance of future time and perceived importance of curiosity in explaining age-related differences in curiosity and sheds light on the situations in which older adults may be as intellectually curious as younger adults.

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Acknowledgements

This project was funded by the Hong Kong Research Grants Council General Research Fund #14613015 and a Direct Grant to Helene Fung and the National Institute of Aging Grant R03 AG023302 and National Institute of Mental Health Grant R01MH068879 awarded to Jeanne L. Tsai.

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Chu, L., Tsai, J.L. & Fung, H.H. Association between age and intellectual curiosity: the mediating roles of future time perspective and importance of curiosity. Eur J Ageing 18, 45–53 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10433-020-00567-6

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Keywords

  • Aging
  • Curiosity
  • Value
  • Culture
  • Intellectual curiosity