The Aging Decision Maker: Cognitive Aging and the Adaptive Selection of Decision Strategies

Rui Mata, Lael J. Schooler, Jörg Rieskamp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

262 Scopus citations


Are older adults' decision abilities fundamentally compromised by age-related cognitive decline? Or can they adaptively select decision strategies? One study (N = 163) investigated the impact of cognitive aging on the ability to select decision strategies as a function of environment structure. Participants made decisions in either an environment that favored the use of information-intensive strategies or one favoring the use of simple, information-frugal strategies. Older adults tended to (a) look up less information and take longer to process it and (b) use simpler, less cognitively demanding strategies. In accordance with the idea that age-related cognitive decline leads to reliance on simpler strategies, measures of fluid intelligence explained age-related differences in information search and strategy selection. Nevertheless, both young and older adults seem to be equally adapted decision makers in that they adjust their information search and strategy selection as a function of environment structure, suggesting that the aging decision maker is an adaptive one.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)796-810
Number of pages15
JournalPsychology and aging
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • adaptive
  • aging
  • decision making
  • strategy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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