Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Age doesn't necessarily affect decision-making, study shows

Date:
June 29, 2010
Source:
North Carolina State University
Summary:
Many people believe that getting older means losing a mental edge, leading to poor decision-making. But a new study shows that when it comes to making intuitive decisions -- using your "gut instincts" -- older adults fare as well as their juniors. The study found that education plays a key role as well.

Many people believe that getting older means losing a mental edge, leading to poor decision-making. But a new study from North Carolina State University shows that when it comes to making intuitive decisions -- using your "gut instincts" -- older adults fare as well as their juniors.

The researchers tested groups of young adults (aged 17-28) and community-dwelling older adults (aged 60-86) -- meaning they live in the community, rather than in a nursing home -- to see how they fared when making decisions based on intuitive evaluation. For example, study participants were asked to choose from a list of apartments based on each apartment's overall positive attributes. Under such conditions, young and older adults were equally adept at making decisions.

"But not every decision can be made that way," says Dr. Thomas Hess, a professor of psychology at NC State and co-author of the study. "Some decisions require more active deliberation. For example, those decisions that require people to distinguish pieces of information that are important from those that are unimportant to the decision at hand." And when it comes to more complex decision-making, Hess says, older adults face more challenges than their younger counterparts.

In one portion of the study, participants were given a list of specific criteria to use in selecting an apartment. That list was then taken away, and each participant had to rely on his or her memory to incorporate the criteria into their decision-making.

However, there was considerable variation among the older adults who participated in the study -- some did very well at the complex decision-making. "Older adults with a higher education did a better job of remembering specific criteria and utilizing them when they made decisions," says lead author Tara Queen, a psychology Ph.D. student at NC State. "Ultimately, they made better choices."

"This tells us that the effects of age on decision-making are not universal," Hess says. "When it comes to making intuitive decisions, like choosing a dish to order from a menu, young and old are similar. Age differences are more likely to crop up when it comes to complex decision-making, such as choosing a health-care plan based on a complex array of information. But even then, it appears that any negative effects of aging will be more evident in those with lower levels of education."

The research can be used to change the way we present information to older adults, Hess adds. Queen explains that "presenting older adults with overwhelming amounts of information is less beneficial to them. For example, different people have different priorities. Information can be broken down into categories. People could then decide which categories are most important to them, and dig down for additional information as needed."

Queen and Hess are currently doing additional research to determine exactly how the complexity of information being presented to older adults affects their decision-making -- knowledge that could allow for more specific measures that could be used to help older adults continue to make good decisions.

The study was funded in part by the National Institute on Aging and the Retirement Research Foundation. The study is published in the June issue of Psychology and Aging.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by North Carolina State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Tara L. Queen, Thomas M. Hess. Age differences in the effects of conscious and unconscious thought in decision making.. Psychology and Aging, 2010; 25 (2): 251 DOI: 10.1037/a0018856

Cite This Page:

North Carolina State University. "Age doesn't necessarily affect decision-making, study shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 June 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100629094147.htm>.
North Carolina State University. (2010, June 29). Age doesn't necessarily affect decision-making, study shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100629094147.htm
North Carolina State University. "Age doesn't necessarily affect decision-making, study shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100629094147.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) A study for University College London suggests obese people who are discriminated against gain more weight than those who are not. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

      Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins