An Aging Approach to the Science of Decision-Making
Natalie Ebner, University of Florida
Adults aged 65 years and older are the fastest growing segment of the population in industrialized nations. Although older adults currently make up less than 20% of the US population, they control over half of the financial wealth. In addition, older adults are confronted with physical and cognitive health issues more than any other age group. To the extent that aging affects decision-making, these demographic changes have the potential for tremendous economic and societal impact. Perhaps not surprisingly stakeholders from all sectors of society—from medicine to the finance industry and consumer markets to policymaking—are becoming increasingly interested in decision-making in aging. Life-span decision science is an emerging research field that integrates various scientific disciplines with the goal of increasing understanding about the decision-making process in adults of different ages. My talk will outline this new integration of decision science and aging research. I will introduce age-associated cognitive, motivational, and socio-affective changes in brain and behavior in their impact on decision-making in different contexts. Among the highlighted topics will be aging effects in learning-based and risky decision-making and recent developments in health- and trust-related decisions. I will emphasize key discoveries made possible through the use of innovative techniques (including neuroimaging) and will identify challenges present in this new field (e.g., lack of good communication across disciplines, lack of successful translation of lab-based evidence into real-world applications). I hope to spur a constructive discussion of future research directions including social decision-making, applied consumer behavior, training and clinical interventions in aging.