Processing speed and memory mediate age-related differences in decision making.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Decision making under risk changes with age. Increases in risk aversion with age have been most commonly characterized, although older adults may be risk seeking in some decision contexts. An important, and unanswered, question is whether these changes in decision making reflect a direct effect of aging or, alternatively, an indirect effect caused by age-related changes in specific cognitive processes. In the current study, older adults (M = 71 years) and younger adults (M = 24 years) completed a battery of tests of cognitive capacities and decision-making preferences. The results indicated systematic effects of age upon decision quality-with both increased risk seeking and increased risk aversion observed in different tasks-consistent with prior studies. Path analyses, however, revealed that age-related effects were mediated by individual differences in processing speed and memory. When those variables were included in the model, age was no longer a significant predictor of decision quality. The authors conclude that the reduction in decision quality and associated changes in risk preferences commonly ascribed to aging are instead mediated by age-related changes in underlying cognitive capacities.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Henninger, DE; Madden, DJ; Huettel, SA

Published Date

  • June 2010

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 25 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 262 - 270

PubMed ID

  • 20545412

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC2896211

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1939-1498

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1037/a0019096


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States