Decision-Making Across the Lifespan: an Examination of the Influence of Ease of Comprehension on the Utilization of Heuristic Versus Systematic Thinking

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University of Alabama Libraries

This study examined age differences in decision-making in a healthcare context. Specifically, I examined whether older adults may be more likely to rely on the recommendation of a credible source, especially when information is difficult to understand, and forgo systematic processing in a decision about their health. Ninety younger (ages 18-25) and 90 older (ages 55-85) participants were exposed to an advertisement in which a physician (presented as a credible source) promotes the use of a supplement. The advertisements presented varied in ease of comprehension, as this has been found to affect the likelihood of using either heuristic or systematic processing in decision-making, and the description of the quality of the supplement was also manipulated. After viewing the advertisement, participants indicated the likelihood that they would purchase the supplement. Consistent with existing literature, the quality of the supplement was shown to impact decision-making in both younger and older adults. Contrary to predictions, younger adults were more likely to purchase the supplement as compared to older adults. Results indicate that older adults were not heavily influenced by the recommendation of the physician and based their decisions on the quality of the supplement. The expertise of older adults possibly provided a framework to attend to the supplements quality and inhibit extraneous source information such as the credibility of the physician.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Aging, Decision-Making, Heuristics