Taking time seriously. A theory of socioemotional selectivity.
Socioemotional selectivity theory claims that the perception of time plays a fundamental role in the selection and pursuit of social goals. According to the theory, social motives fall into 1 of 2 general categories--those related to the acquisition of knowledge and those related to the regulation of emotion. When time is perceived as open-ended, knowledge-related goals are prioritized. In contrast, when time is perceived as limited, emotional goals assume primacy. The inextricable association between time left in life and chronological age ensures age-related differences in social goals. Nonetheless, the authors show that the perception of time is malleable, and social goals change in both younger and older people when time constraints are imposed. The authors argue that time perception is integral to human motivation and suggest potential implications for multiple subdisciplines and research interests in social, developmental, cultural, cognitive, and clinical psychology.