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Decision Making Across the Life Span

Eric Johnson, Elke Weber

Our research on Decision Making and aging aims to apply a specific memory-based account of decision-making to differences in preference construction and decision-making as a function of age. We attempt to use the Preferences-As-Memory (PAM) model to provide a parsimonious and integrative account of seemingly disparate decision-making phenomena, and argue that these phenomena all arise from memory processes known to underlie behavior in many other memory-dependent tasks and that this model can provide a unifying account of known age-related changes in preferences.

The decision making tasks involve assessing individual tendencies in loss aversion, temporal discounting, and the extent they will be influenced by default options, irrelevant numerical anchors, and how questions are framed. Cognitive assessments focus on mostly memory-based functions (e.g., working memory and interference memory), assessment of processing speed/fluid intelligence (e.g., motor reaction time, reasoning, and assessment of crystallized intelligence (e.g., vocabulary).

As people age, they experience a gradual cognitive decline, especially to memory-related cognitive functions. In our comparison between the behavioral measures for the older adults and the younger adults, We hypothesize that cognitive decline in memory will lead older adults to have increased loss aversion, greater temporal discounting, greater tendency for framing and anchoring.