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Exploratory decision-making as a function of lifelong experience, not cognitive decline

Blanco, NJ; Love, BC; Ramscar, M; Otto, AR; Smayda, K; Maddox, WT; (2016) Exploratory decision-making as a function of lifelong experience, not cognitive decline. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General , 145 (3) pp. 284-297. 10.1037/xge0000133. Green open access

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Abstract

Older adults perform worse than younger adults in some complex decision-making scenarios, which is commonly attributed to age-related declines in striatal and frontostriatal processing. Recently, this popular account has been challenged by work that considered how older adults’ performance may differ as a function of greater knowledge and experience, and by work showing that, in some cases, older adults outperform younger adults in complex decision-making tasks. In light of this controversy, we examined the performance of older and younger adults in an exploratory choice task that is amenable to model-based analyses and ostensibly not reliant on prior knowledge. Exploration is a critical aspect of decision-making poorly understood across the life span. Across 2 experiments, we addressed (a) how older and younger adults differ in exploratory choice and (b) to what extent observed differences reflect processing capacity declines. Model-based analyses suggested that the strategies used by the 2 groups were qualitatively different, resulting in relatively worse performance for older adults in 1 decisionmaking environment but equal performance in another. Little evidence was found that differences in processing capacity drove performance differences. Rather the results suggested that older adults' performance might result from applying a strategy that may have been shaped by their wealth of real-word decision-making experience. While this strategy is likely to be effective in the real world, it is ill suited to some decision environments. These results underscore the importance of taking into account effects of experience in aging studies, even for tasks that do not obviously tap past experiences. While this strategy is likely to be effective in the real world, it is ill suited to some decision environments. These results underscore the importance of taking into account effects of experience in aging studies, even for tasks that do not obviously tap past experiences.

Type: Article
Title: Exploratory decision-making as a function of lifelong experience, not cognitive decline
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1037/xge0000133
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xge0000133
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2016 The Authors. This article has been published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/ 3.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Copyright for this article is retained by the author(s). Author(s) grant(s) the American Psychological Association the exclusive right to publish the article and identify itself as the original publisher.
Keywords: decision-making, frontostriatal striatum, aging, exploration
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1479578
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