Alexandra M. Freund, Prof. Dr. phil.

Professor, Chair of Developmental Psychology: Adulthood



A. Freund


Prof. Dr. Alexandra M. Freund
University of Zurich
Department of Psychology
Developmental Psychology: Adulthood
Binzmuehlestrasse 14/11
CH-8050 Zurich / Switzerland
Office hours:
++41 44 635 7200
BIN 3.A.05
by appointment

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

  • Almeling, L., Hammerschmidt, K., Sennhenn-Reulen, H., Freund, A. M., & Fischer, J. (2016). Motivational shifts in aging monkeys and the origins of social selectivity. Current Biology, 26, 1-6. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.04.066
  • Freund, A. M., & Hennecke, M. (2015). On means and ends: The role of goal focus in successful goal pursuit. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24, 149–153. doi:10.1177/0963721414559774
  • Knecht, M., Wiese, B. S., & Freund, A. M. (2016). Going beyond work and family: A longitudinal study on the role of leisure in the work–life interplay. Journal of Organizational Behavior. Advance online publication. doi:10.1002/job.2098
  • Krause, K., & Freund, A. M. (2016). It’s in the means: Process focus helps against procrastination in the academic context. Motivation and Emotion, 40, 422-437. doi:10.1007/s11031-016-9541-2
  • Napolitano, C. M., & Freund, A. M. (2016). On the use and usefulness of backup plans. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 11, 56-73. doi:10.1177/1745691615596991
  • Weiss, D., Job, V., Mathias, M., Grah, S., & Freund, A. M. (2016). The end is (not) near: Aging, essentialism, and future time perspective. Developmental Psychology, 52, 996-1009, doi: 10.1037/dev0000115

Education and Honors

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)

Professional Positions

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