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Risk Taking for Potential Reward Decreases across the Lifespan

Rutledge, RB; Smittenaar, P; Zeidman, P; Brown, HR; Adams, RA; Lindenberger, U; Dayan, P; (2016) Risk Taking for Potential Reward Decreases across the Lifespan. Current Biology , 26 (12) pp. 1634-1639. 10.1016/j.cub.2016.05.017. Green open access

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Abstract

The extent to which aging affects decision-making is controversial. Given the critical financial decisions that older adults face (e.g., managing retirement funds), changes in risk preferences are of particular importance [1]. Although some studies have found that older individuals are more risk averse than younger ones [2, 3 and 4], there are also conflicting results, and a recent meta-analysis found no evidence for a consistent change in risk taking across the lifespan [5]. There has as yet been little examination of one potential substrate for age-related changes in decision-making, namely age-related decline in dopamine, a neuromodulator associated with risk-taking behavior. Here, we characterized choice preferences in a smartphone-based experiment (n = 25,189) in which participants chose between safe and risky options. The number of risky options chosen in trials with potential gains but not potential losses decreased gradually over the lifespan, a finding with potentially important economic consequences for an aging population. Using a novel approach-avoidance computational model, we found that a Pavlovian attraction to potential reward declined with age. This Pavlovian bias has been linked to dopamine, suggesting that age-related decline in this neuromodulator could lead to the observed decrease in risk taking.

Type: Article
Title: Risk Taking for Potential Reward Decreases across the Lifespan
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.05.017
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2016.05.017
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2016 The Authors This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Keywords: Science & Technology, Life Sciences & Biomedicine, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, AGE-RELATED-CHANGES, DECISION-MAKING, PREDICTION ERRORS, DOPAMINERGIC MODULATION, PROSPECT-THEORY, WORKING-MEMORY, OLDER-ADULTS, BRAIN, INDIVIDUALS, VARIABILITY
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 > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Gatsby Computational Neurosci Unit
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Computer Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1499881
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