chapter  4
33 Pages

Aging-Related Changes in Decision-Making 1

WithPär Bjälkebring, Ellen Peters

Aging is associated with declines in deliberative processing and associated decision-making quality. However, people over 65 years make many of our nation's most important decisions (think about the Supreme Court, governments, and corporations around the world), perhaps indicating that deliberative decline does not fully explain adult age differences in decision-making. Instead, both deliberative/analytical and affective/experiential ways of thinking may influence decision quality. Known as a dual-process approach, these two modes of thinking can be fruitfully extended to our understanding of adult age differences in judgment and decision-making.

We review research demonstrating the existence of three processes that compensate for age-related declines in deliberative ability: selective use of deliberative capacity, accumulated experience, and changes in emotional processing. In many instances, these compensatory processes may protect and sometimes improve decision-making quality in older age. Further, we show that taking a life span view of decision-making is beneficial and that those with better vs. worse decision skills may experience different life span trajectories. Lastly, we briefly introduce methods that might improve older adult decision-making in situations where they might be vulnerable.