Age differences in risky decision making: the effects of priming, personality, & working memory

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University of Alabama Libraries

In the current study, we examined the effects of priming and personality on risky decision making while playing the Game of Dice Task (GDT). Participants were randomly assigned to one of three priming conditions: Risk Aversive, Risk-Seeking, or Control. In the Risk Seeking condition, a fictional character benefited from risky behavior while in the Risk Aversive condition, a fictional character benefited from exercising caution. In the GDT, participants decide how risky they wish to be on each trial. To optimize performance, one should make "safe" rather than risky choices. Although older adults self-reported being more cautious than younger adults, older adults made riskier decisions than younger adults on the GDT. However, there were no longer significant age differences on the GDT after controlling for working memory. More than likely, the aforementioned age differences were due to age-related changes in effective strategy usage, rather than age-related changes in the propensity to take risks. In addition, for young adults, certain personality traits significantly predicted risky decision making on the GDT. The findings from this study have implications for older adults' decision making in everyday situations. Older adults may make risky decisions and thereby jeopardize their financial and other resources, not because they intentionally want "to roll the dice," but because of an inability to strategize and fully comprehend the consequences of their decisions.

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Cognitive psychology, Experimental psychology, Gerontology