Cultural and age differences in breadth and depth interests
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AbstractThis current study examined the breadth and depth of interests in different age groups across four different cultures. Interest serves important function of promoting learning and exploration. Previous studies have identified two dimensions of interest, its breadth and depth. For breadth, it captures the constant desire for many different topics, experiences and ideas. For depth, it captures the sustained desire for a single topic or area. However, little studies have explored its age and cultural differences.
As part of a larger cross-cultural study, the present study included a total of 1,329 participants (female=58.7%; Mage=54.4) from Germany (n=501), United States (n=303), Hong Kong (n=308) and Taiwan (n=281). Participants’ breadth and depth of interest were self-reported along with other demographic information. The results showed that breadth of interest declined with age (p<.01) while depth of interest maintained with age (p>.05) even after controlling for subjective health status. Furthermore, these associations between age and interest dimensions are culturally different (p<.000). Specifically, the maintenance or increase of depth of interest is absent in Asian cultures.
From the present study, we found that interest levels did vary with age differently depending on the dimension examined. Such trends might be explained by the Socioemotional Selectivity Theory. According to this theory, people invest less in expansive goals and more in emotionally meaningful goals as they aged. Indeed, we observed that breadth of interest declined with age as exploration becomes less important in older age. However, it did not suggest that older adults were simply uninterested. As observed using the measure of depth of interest, the extent to which individuals showed sustained engagement in a single topic or area was maintained despite age. Moreover, such maintenance of depth of interest was absent in Hong Kong and Taiwan. We speculate that it was due to the cultural difference in perceiving the value of interest. In western societies, having a lifelong interest in any domain is encouraged; whereas, in eastern societies, interests in activities outside of work are considered as unnecessary. Hence, as work and family becomes more central, Asian adults showed a decline in their investment in a single leisure activity, which extends into their older age.
Acceptance Date19/12/2017
All Author(s) ListLi Chu, Helene H. Fung
Name of Conference25th Biennial Meeting of the International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development
Start Date of Conference15/07/2018
End Date of Conference19/07/2018
Place of ConferenceGold Coast
Country/Region of ConferenceAustralia
LanguagesEnglish-United States

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