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Vol. 56, No. 3, 2010
Issue release date: April 2010
Gerontology 2010;56:319–324

Aging and Decision-Making: A Neurocognitive Perspective

Brand M. · Markowitsch H.J.
aGeneral Psychology: Cognition, University of Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg, bErwin L. Hahn Institute for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Essen, and cPhysiological Psychology, University of Bielefeld, Bielefeld, Germany

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Neuropsychological research contributes to a better understanding of cognitive mechanisms involved in making advantageous decisions, which is important for everyday life. Using laboratory gambling tasks, it has been demonstrated that both structural and functional brain changes can result in disadvantageous decision-making linked to reductions in executive functioning and feedback processing. However, relatively little is known about whether or not decision-making on these tasks is affected by normal aging. We argue that functions involved in decision-making – in particular categorization and monitoring processes – are most likely reduced in older adults. These reductions should lead to decision-making difficulties in older individuals. However, we also argue that the effects of age on decision-making depend on the type of decision situation (i.e. ambiguous or risky) in combination with the complexity of the decision-making task. In addition, we give a brief overview of methodological issues that should be taken into account in future studies on decision-making and aging.

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