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Study Suggests Risky Decisions Linked to Cognition, Not Age

By , black-rose-bielefeld.de GuideJune 14, 2010

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According to a new study by researchers at Duke University, advanced age does not necessarily predict diminished decision-making. In the study published in the American Psychological Association's journal Psychology and Aging, researchers found that risky decisions were linked to cognition and not age.


Image courtesy Sharon Dominick / iStockPhoto

In the study, participants could either lose or gain money based upon the decisions they made. A group of 54 older adults between the ages of 66 and 76 and a group of younger adults between the ages of 18 and 35 participated in a variety of economic tasks that involved making different kinds of risky decisions. Cognitive abilities such as how long participants could remember new information and how fast they could process that information were also tested.

"Once we accounted for cognitive abilities like memory and processing speed, age had nothing to do with predicting whether an individual would make the best economic decisions on the tasks we assigned," explained the study's lead author Scott Huetell, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience and the director of the Duke Center for Neuroeconomic studies.

The researchers also utilized a statistical technique called path analysis to determine whether age had a direct or indirect effects on financial decisions. According to Huetell, the standard belief has been that age itself causes people to make poor or risky decisions, but the results of the study indicated otherwise. "Some of the older subjects we studied were able to make better decisions than younger subjects who scored lower on tests of their cognitive abilities," Huettel said.

Learn more about this study:

  • Risky Decisions Linked to Cognition, Not Age - Psych Central
  • Cognitive Ability, Not Age, Predicts Risky Decisions - Duke Medicine
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