Aging and Decision Making: Process Insights Into Variability in Decision Strategies Across Tasks



Research in JDM has shown that decision-making skills start to deteriorate with age. Poor decision-making could reflect an indirect effect of aging on cognitive ability (e.g. attention, working memory) or systematic differences in decision-making strategies. In a set of two studies, we used a multi-methodological approach to elucidate the mechanisms underlying age-related changes in decision preferences. Participants completed a complex risky-choice task involving mixed gambles, and a financial decision-making task involving annuities in the same session. We found systematic differences in preferences across age for both tasks. Strikingly, these differences were consistent with task-dependent variability in the decision-making strategies across age. While older adults demonstrated more “top-down” processing for the financial decision-making task, they were more susceptible to “bottom-up” task-irrelevant features in the risky-choice task unlike the younger adults. These findings have important and significant implications for the development of task-based interventions in older adults.