The effects of unconscious thought and domain familiarity on younger and older adults' decision making

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University of Alabama Libraries

The current study examined age differences in decision making as a function of familiarity and time for deliberation. The primary goal was to determine circumstances under which older adults could make optimal purchasing decisions using intuitive thought processes. The participants made purchasing decisions regarding cell phone and houses. There were three phases involved in the process. In the acquisition phase, younger and older adult participants were presented with information related to purchasing decisions. Younger and older adults were given a limited amount of time to review the materials related to the purchasing decision. During the deliberation phase, participants were randomly assigned to a conscious condition in which they had a predetermined amount of time to deliberate or a distracted condition in which their working memory resources were taxed for the same amount of time. In the decision phase, participants were then asked to immediately choose which of the two options provided the best value for money. Results indicated that overall older adults made better quality decisions than younger adults. Older adult participants also made accurate decisions using the intuitive process of thinking. These results might be explained by the fact that the older adult participants were a unique group of older adults, given their overall cognitive abilities and level of education. Additionally, older adult participants might have been able to use intuition effectively in this study because of their extensive experience with purchasing products. Interestingly, older adults performed better than younger adults although younger adults had better episodic memory with respect to specific features associated with the products in the purchasing decision.

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Cognitive psychology, Clinical psychology