Positive Plasticity: Lifecourse and Lifespan Perspectives

Modern notions of development, such as the lifespan approach, claim that human development is the result of the interaction between three different sources: biology (maturation/senescence), culture (learning), and the individual person (decision/action). This leaves much room for variation between individuals; this potential for variation and change is labelled plasticity (e.g., Staudinger, Marsiske & Baltes, 1995). More specifically, plasticity is defined as the divergence of an individual’s development from the average developmental trajectory, for better or for worse. Two types of “positive” plasticity need to be distinguished: resilience and growth. Plasticity is dependent on available internal or external resources.

Our research aim is to identify contextual and individual characteristics that are crucial to facilitate productive adult development and aging; we seek to promote positive plasticity of adult development. In terms of external contexts, we currently focus on both work environments as well as the larger context of civil society. With regard to internal contexts, we have been investigating the effects of physical fitness. So far, we have concentrated on cognitive functioning, features of personality such as personality dimensions and emotion regulation, as well as job performance and health as developmental outcomes.