Professor, Chair of Developmental Psychology: Adulthood
Alexandra M. Freund, Prof. Dr. phil.
University of Zurich
Department of Psychology
Developmental Psychology: Adulthood
CH-8050 Zurich / Switzerland
|+41 44 635 7200
Central Research Interests
- Processes of developmental regulation; successful development
- Motivation across the life span
- Development of self-related cognitions and emotions across the life span
- Lifelong Learning
Brief Research Statement
I am interested in processes of developmental regulation across the lifespan. What are the basic processes guiding individual behavior and experience over time? How do we become who we are? To address these «big questions», I adopt a lifespan perspective assuming that individuals actively shape the direction and level of their development through selecting, pursuing, and maintaining goals in interaction with social or environmental opportunity structures.
I distinguish broadly between two broad and interacting levels of goal representations that are proposed to influence individual development across the lifespan (Freund, 2003, 2007):
(1) Age-related expectations: These expectations are reflected in social norms (e.g., age for starting school) that inform about age-related opportunity structures and goal-relevant resources. Personal beliefs about the appropriate timing and sequencing of goals are informed by social norms and expectations as well as by personal experiences and values.
(2) Personal goals: Social and personal expectations directly influence behavior and also the personal goals a person selects and pursues (e.g., being successful in one's profession). In addition to consciously represented personal goals, non-conscious goals and motives (e.g., social approach motives) influence behavior and development.
Both levels of goals are constrained by the limitation of resources throughout the entire lifespan. Moreover, the limitation of resources becomes more and more predominant with increasing age. Which goal processes help to manage this fundamental resource limitation and the changing availability of resources across the lifespan? We propose three basic processes:
(a) Focusing resources on central personal goals and developmental tasks while maintaining the breadth that is necessary to adapt to a changing environment and personal values.
Research projects addressing this issue include the investigation of goal conflict and facilitation, the pursuit of multiple goals, disengagement from conflicting or overtaxing goals.
(b) Motivational orientation towards gains, maintenance, and the avoidance of losses needs to match the potential for resource gains and the likelihood of losses.
Research projects in this area concern age-related differences in gain, maintenance, and loss-avoidance orientation in social expectations, personal goals, and motives, and their impact on basic processes of information processing.
(c) The cognitive representation of goals primarily in terms of the process or the outcome of goal pursuit depending on the availability of resources, motivational orientation, or time extension.
The empirical studies in this domain center around basic motivational phenomena such as procrastination, boredom, and persistence in the face of setbacks and failures.
We use a multi-methods approach encompassing self-report, experiments, and process-oriented studies, including experience sampling techniques, behavioral measures, and social-cognitive paradigms.
Selected Key Publications
- Freund, A. M. (2020). The bucket list effect: Why leisure goals are often deferred until retirement. American Psychologist, 75, 499-510. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000617
- Freund, A. M., & Keil, A. (in press). Adult age-related differences in appetitive and aversive associative learning. Emotion. https://doi.org/10.1037/emo0000860
Mayr, U., & Freund, A. M. (2020). Do We Become More Prosocial as We Age, and if So, Why? Current Directions in Psychology, 29, 248-254. https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721420910811
Education and Honors
|2020||Elected member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina|
|2015||Research award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation|
|2002||Habilitation, Free University Berlin, Germany (Thesis Title: The role of goals for development)|
|2000–2005||Elected founding member of the Young Academy of the Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and the German Academy of Natural Sciences Leopoldina|
|1994||Dr. phil., Free University Berlin, Germany (Thesis Title: Who am I? Content, Structure, and Function of the Self-Definition in Old Age)|
|1989||Diploma in Psychology, Free University Berlin, Germany (Thesis Title: Self-Awareness and Life-Events as Predictors of Relapse in Alcoholics - A Test of G.J. Hull's Model)|
|2005–||Professor of Psychology, University of Zurich, Department of Psychology, Zurich, Switzerland|
|2003–2004||Associate Professor of Human Development and Social Policy, and Psychology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA|
|2003||Assistant Professor of Human Development and Social Policy, Learning Sciences, and Psychology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA|
|1994–2002||Research Scientist, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany|
|1993–1994||Post-Doctoral Fellow at Stanford University (advisor: Laura L. Carstensen), Stanford, CA, USA|
|1990–1993||Doctoral Student at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany (Thesis: Who am I? Content, structure and function of older persons’ self-definition; Thesis advisors: Paul B. Baltes and Jacqui Smith)|
|1988–1989||Research Assistant, Project: Prevention of behavioral disorders in school-children (PI: Prof. Dr. M. Manns), Free University Berlin, Germany|
|1987–1989||Research Assistant, Health psychology program (headed by Ralf Schwarzer), Free University Berlin, Germany|
|1987–1989||Counseling and rehabilitation of former psychiatry inpatients, social-psychiatric clinic, Berlin, Germany|