Aging and Decisions From Experience: Differences in Information Search and Subsequent Decision Quality
thesisposted on 24.05.2021, 14:04 authored by Pete Wegier
Across a wide variety of choice tasks requiring information to be learned prior to a decision be made, older adults have been found to search for less information than their younger adult counterparts. This dissertation proposed and investigated several potential causes of this age-related decline in the extent of information search: (1) Domain familiarity; (2) Search patterns; (3) Affect; and (4) Risk. The results of four experiments are presented. In each, no significant age-related decline in the extent of information search was found. Despite this, each experiment presents novel findings, adding to our understanding of how information search and subsequent decision quality in choice changes with age. Experiment 1 revealed an age-related shift in search pattern selection during pre-decisional information search. Older adults showed a preference for the use of a comprehensive, infrequent-switch, pattern during search. Experiment 2 demonstrated the significant impact that search patterns can have on decision quality. Search pattern use was strictly enforced and it was found that searching using a piecewise search pattern resulted in a significant improvement in performance, relative to comprehensive search, across both younger and older adult age groups, despite older adults showing declines in their fluid intelligence. Experiment 3 investigated the role of affective feedback on decision quality. When given affect-rich and affect-poor feedback, an interaction of age and affective feedback on decision quality was observed. Younger adults’ performance was greater when they were provided with affect-poor performance feedback compared to affect-rich feedback, but a similar trend was not observed in older adults. Experiment 4 found older adults to be no less efficient in identifying higher value outcomes than younger adults. Overall, this dissertation presents several novel findings in the field of decision-making research. The importance of search pattern selection on decision quality was demonstrated. More critical is the finding that older adults are no less effective in their decisions across a wide array of tasks and manipulations, despite existing stereotypes and evidence of age-related declines in cognitive abilities. Moving forward, the work presented here could be used to guide the future creation of decision aids and new approaches to choice.