Research Projects and Research Topics

„Life Stories”: Implementation and evaluation of an intergenerational and generativity focused encounter program

PI: J. Hofer & D. Kranz

In the project “Life Stories” (funded by the German "Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung", BMBF; 2017-2020) we successfully implemented and evaluated an intergenerational and generativity focused encounter program in nursing homes. Based on their life stories, elderly people living in nursing homes and students (secondary schools) discussed existential questions in life (e.g., what are primary goals, what assigns meaning, and how to cope with problems in life?).

The program allows elderly people to resolve a basic developmental task, i.e., act generatively by passing on their life experiences to younger generations. The program gives younger people the opportunity to reflect on basic questions in life. By doing so, they receive support by elderly people in their identity development. Additionally, the intergenerational communication fosters the development of communication skills and finally results in a decline of age-related stereotypes and consolidates solidarity between generations.

The program was evaluated in 12 intergenerational groups. Single groups consisted of approximately five adolescents, five to seven older adults, and two moderators. In line with our hypotheses, participation in the program reduced age-related stereotypes. Additionally, self-concept clarity was fostered by adolescents (compared to a control group), above all among adolescents characterized by a high level of extraversion and agreeableness. Among older participants, generative behavior increased and finally led to a more pronounced well-being at the end of the program. Also among older adults, beneficial effects of the program were associated with particular personality dispositions and capacities, i.e., above all older people characterized by high levels of either conscientiousness or agreeableness with at least medium or high levels of cognitive functioning showed increased generative behavior at the end of the LSEP.

Project experiences and findings are published in a handbook that can be attained without charge by institutions working with youth or older adults. The handbook allows them to implement the program.

Kranz, D., Thomas, N.M., & Hofer, J. (2021). Changes in age stereotypes in adolescent and elderly participants of an intergenerational encounter program. Frontiers in Psychology, 12: 658797.

Thomas, N. M., Hofer, J., & Kranz, D. (2022). Effects of an intergenerational program on adolescent self-concept clarity: A pilot study. Journal of Personality, 90, 476–489.


Implicit motives and identity development

PI: J. Hofer & H. Busch

In developmental psychology, identity formation is understood as a life-long process. Nonetheless, due to developing cognitive capacities and new demands put forth by the social environment it is in adolescence that individuals begin to consciously deal with their own identity. Adolescents seek answers to the question "Who am I?", they make their own life-plans, set goals, and look for guiding principles which they can use as orientation for their behavior.

Identity formation is considered as a process which is strongly shaped by individuals' sociocultural context. Cultural contexts set different demands for adolescents and grant certain freedoms but also set boundaries when it comes to the exploration of and commitment to identity elements. Parenting styles, which typically reflect dominant socialization goals in a given cultural context, represent a significant factor in the process of identity formation. Similarly, internal factors impact the process and the outcome of the identity crisis in adolescence. In particular, self-regulation capacities have been identified to be an important resource in this context. The role of implicit motives, however, has not yet been examined in the context of identity formation. This is surprising as implicit motives not only energize and direct behavior but also influence developmental processes across the life-span.

In the ongoing studies (funded by the German Research Foundation, DFG; 2016-2020) the research traditions of implicit motives and identity formation which previously have led separate lives are brought together. A central assumption of the project is that implicit motives form the process of identity formation because they function as a sort of weighing disposition, indicating whether an identity element (i.e., goal) under exploration shows a fit with one's inner needs. The multivariate, cross-cultural, and longitudinal design makes it possible to conjointly consider various significant factors that impact identity formation in adolescence, thus promising new insights in a topic that has always fascinated psychologists.

Our findings clearly show effects of (perceived) parenting styles on identity development in diverse cultural contexts. Furthermore, implicit motives shape this developmental process: Above all, adolescents characterized by strong (implicit) needs for affiliation and power show significant progress in the successful resolution of the developmental task of identity vs. role diffusion.

Hofer, J., Lehmann, M., Busch, H., & Menon, A. (2021). Associations between the implicit needs for affiliation and power and identity development in a sample of Zambian adolescents. Self and Identity.

Lehmann, M., Hofer, J., Busch, H., &  Menon, J. A. (2021). In the eye of the beholder: Effects of parent-reported parenting and adolescent-reported parenting on identity among German and Zambian adolescents. Identity, 21(2), 144-158.


Behavioral and psychological correlates of the implicit power motive in children

PI: J. Hofer & H. Busch

Research on motivation has demonstrated that human behavior is energized and directed by a predominantly unconscious (i.e., implicit) motivational system. A central motive in this tradition is the power motive, defined as the concern for exerting influence on others’ behavior and emotions. In adults the implicit power motive is associated with prosocial as well as antisocial behavior. Despite theorizing about the shaping of implicit motives in prelingual childhood, knowledge on behavioral and psychological correlates of the implicit power motive in childhood is virtually nonexistent.

To fill this gap, the (ongoing) research program (funded by the German Research Fund, DFG, 2016-2019) implemented a longitudinal multi-method and multi-level design to scrutinize a compelling issue in research on implicit motives: How does the implicit power motive shape childhood psychological processes and behavior? To answer this question, the strength of the implicit power motive was assessed in elementary school children and longitudinally related to conative, affective, and cognitive correlates (attention, learning, and stress phenomena, behavior in interaction sequences and in children’s and parents' self-reports). The proposed research opens new horizons by initiating a re-interpretation of childhood behavior from an implicit motive point of view.

Spengler, B., Hofer, J., & Busch, H. (2019). A video game-based investigation of power stress moderators in children. Motivation and Emotion.


Determinants of successful aging in different cultural contexts

PI: J. Hofer

This research project (funded by the German Research Fund, DFG, completed in 2012) aimed to identify personal and social factors for successful aging in Germany, Hong Kong, and Cameroon. Criteria for successful aging include subjective well-being and a successful resolution of Erikson’s developmental tasks of adulthood: generativity and ego-integrity. Interview and survey-based data were used to examine factors that help mastering these developmental tasks. Of particular interest in this process were implicit motives, an issue that has been previously neglected in research on development in old age.

Hofer, J.,Busch, H., Au, A., Poláčková Šolcová, I., Tavel, P., & Tsien Wong, T. (2014). For the benefit of others: Generativity and meaning in life in the elderly in four cultures. Psychology and Aging, 29, 764-775.


The implicit power motive and its significance for psychological and behavioral processes

PI: J. Hofer

Previous research in the motivational domains of affiliation and achievement has shown that congruence of implicit and explicit motives has positive effects on well-being, but evidence concerning the power motive still remains to be established. Is that due to poor methodology or is it a result of so far unknown characteristics of the power motive (e.g. does the power motive not contribute to happiness)? The results of this project (funded by the German Research Fund, DFG, 2006-2009), based on German and Chinese samples, showed that congruence between implicit and explicit power motives is positively related to well-being. Furthermore, longitudinal data were collected to clarify the effect of goal attainment in different motivational domains.

Hofer, J., Busch, H., Bond, M.H., Li, M., & Law, R. (2010). Is motive-goal congruence in the power domain beneficial for individual well-being? An investigation in a German and two Chinese samples. Journal of Research in Personality, 44, 610-620.

Studies on identity development

PI: J. Hofer & H. Busch

There is consensus among developmental psychologists that the development of a unique identity is the central developmental task of adolescence - an achieved identity is considered to be the healthiest outcome of identity development, at least in Western cultural contexts. Active exploration of potential identity elements leads to stable commitments about what to integrate into one’s identity concept. Empirical research has shown that the congruence between implicit and explicit motives affects this developmental process. Further investigations were conducted to examine whether the ideal of an achieved identity applies as well for non-Western cultural contexts.

Hofer, J., Busch, H., Chasiotis, A., & Kießling, F. (2006). Motive congruence and interpersonal identity status. Journal of Personality, 74, 511-541.

Implicit motives and life history strategies

PI: A. Chasiotis & J. Hofer

The project (funded by the German Research Fund, 2004-2005) aimed at investigating the consequences of the implicit affiliation and power motive in samples from Costa Rica, Germany, and Cameroon. The research team expected implicit motives to affect how people handled developmental tasks based on the effects of implicit motives on long-term behavioral trends.  Results have shown that a pro-socially oriented power motive is important for resolving the conflict between generativity and stagnation. This applied to all three considered cultures, which allowed McAdams’ and St. Aubin’s (1992) Model of Generativity to be cross-culturally generalized.

Hofer, J., Busch, H., Chasiotis, A., Kärtner, J., & Campos, D. (2008). Concern for generativity and its relation to implicit pro-social power motivation, generative goals, and satisfaction with life: A cross-cultural investigation. Journal of Personality, 76, 1-30.

Measurement of implicit motives

PI: A. Chasiotis & J. Hofer

This project focussed on methodical problems in cross-cultural research on implicit motives. The main aim of the project was the development of a measure of implicit motives, applicable in different cultures. By extended research we developed a stimulus set for the Picture Story Exercise (PSE) to measure implicit affiliation and power in Costa Rica, Germany, and Cameroon. This procedure can be adapted to other stimuli and samples from various other cultural backgrounds; the measure therefore represents a prototype for culturally fair testing of implicit motives.

Hofer, J., Chasiotis, A., Friedlmeier, W., Busch, H., & Campos, D. (2005). The measurement of implicit motives in three cultures: Power and affiliation in Cameroon, Costa Rica, and Germany. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 36, 689-716.

International Cooperations

D.R. Campos
Universidad de Costa Rica
San José, Costa Rica

Bamenda University of Science and Technology (BUST)
Bamenda, North-West Province, Kamerun

A. Au, T. Tsien Wong, M.H. Bond
Polytechnic University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong, China

M. Li
Henan Normal University
Xinxiang, Henan Province, PR China

A. Menon
University of Zambia
Lusaka, Sambia

I. Poláckova Šolcová
Charles University
Prague, Czech Republic

P. Tavel
University of Olomouc
Olomouc, Czech Republic