This study examined the role of emotional responses to experiencing age-morphed images in promoting individuals’ attitudes toward seniors and behavioral intentions to support senior-related issues. We investigated whether temporal status (i.e., current vs. future) manipulated by using age-morphing technology and the subject of images (i.e., self vs. other) elicited different emotional responses—personal distress and empathic concern. Drawing on the perspective-taking framework, we tested these emotional responses as an underlying mechanism to explain the seemingly ambivalent effects of age-morphing technology. A laboratory and an online experiment was conducted on different samples: Study 1 on university students and Study 2 on an extended population sample with ages ranging from 21 to 52 years. The findings for Study 1 revealed that university students exhibited a greater level of personal distress when they saw an age-morphed image, which led to unfavorable attitudes toward seniors. The results of Study 2 revealed that, when people saw an age-morphed image of another person, they showed greater empathic concern than when seeing their old future image, which served as a moderated mediator leading to favorable attitudes toward seniors and behavioral and financial support for the senior-related issues. Unlike the finding of Study 1, the increased personal distress led to positive outcomes. In addition, participants exhibited greater empathic concern, which led to a higher level of supportive intentions. The results demonstrated both emotional responses could operate as potential effects of age group, generating different outcomes. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications.
- Age-morphing technology
- Empathic concern
- Personal distress
- Perspective-taking framework
- Senior-related issue campaigns