Study: Aging may affect complex decision making
June 09, 07:00 PM By Elizabeth Millard
In some studies, aging has been associated with general decline in cognitive functions, but in terms of simple decision making, older adults tend to perform just as well as younger people, researchers note.
However, aging may affect more complex decision-making processes, according to a recent study.
Psychologists from the University of Basel and Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin conducted three studies in which younger and older adults repeatedly made decisions based on short-term experience and learning strategies.
Although the older participants showed the same level of cognitive ability and decision making as younger people, they started to lag behind as the tasks became more complex.
The study does have some limitations, especially in terms of size. Fewer than 100 participants were in the third phase of the research, when the most age differences emerged. A much larger study would need to be done to confirm the potential effects of aging on complex decision-making processes.
Also, some previous studies have noted that cognitive decline does not affect all individuals equally, due to a range of factors including hormone levels, nutrition, social network strength, chronic medical conditions and other biological risk factors.
Even emotion can play a part in decision-making changes, according to researchers from DePaul University. They note that more research is being done on the role of emotions in affective and analytic processes that go into judgment and decisions.
Another factor that determines decision-making ability for older people may be previous knowledge, according to a 2013 study. In that research, participants seemed to counterbalance cognitive decline with accumulated wisdom.