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University of Basel

01 June 2015

Psychology: Does Aging Affect Decision Making?

Aging is associated with significant decline in cognitive functions. But does this translate into poorer decision making? Psychologists from the University of Basel and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development report that in simple decision situations, older adults perform just as well as younger adults. However, according to their study published in the academic journal Cognition, aging may affect decision performance in more complex decision situations.

Important decisions in politics and economics are often made by older people: According to Forbes magazine, the average age of the world's most powerful people in 2013 was 61 years. As populations across the globe age, the selection of older individuals into such powerful roles may even be further intensified.

Aging is associated with a significant decline in so-called fluid cognitive abilities, for example, the ability to store information in memory or to quickly solve cognitive problems. Fluid cognitive abilities may play a role particularly in “decisions from experience”, that is, when the potential consequences of available options is not conveniently summarized but has to be acquired through information search (exploration) and learning. Thus, how do older in comparison to younger adults fare when making decisions from experience?

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