An upside of aging: aging effect in ambivalence

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Ambivalence refers to a conflict between two contradicting values, principles, beliefs, or emotions. Heretofore, there have not been studies that have focused on age differences in ambivalence within the context of a dual system framework. According to dual process theory, there are two separate cognitive systems that are primarily responsible for either deliberative logical judgments (System 2) or responsible for fast, automatic, intuitive, visceral judgments (System 1). The current study investigated the impact of intra and/or intersystem conflict on decision making. Thus, in some instances the stimuli were configured in such a way as to elicit System 2 processing (only logical statements) and in other instances, the stimuli were configured so that System 1 processing would be elicited (only emotional statements). This study also investigated possible age-related changes in processing contradictory information and the ambivalence that often arises when considering opposing viewpoints. One of the unique characteristics of the current study is that I varied the extent to which participants would have to engage system 1 processing to resolve the experimenter-induced ambivalence associated with making a decision. The results of this study show that older adults generally experience less ambivalence compared to young adults, except in the condition in which they received two emotionally conflicting options (i.e., intrasystem conflict within system 1).

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Cognitive psychology