Inhibitory Control Underlies Individual Differences in Older Adults’ Hindsight Bias

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Outcome knowledge influences recall of earlier predictions of the event in question. Researchers have hypothesized that age-related declines in inhibitory control may underlie older adults’ increased susceptibility to the two underlying bias processes that contribute to this hindsight bias (HB) phenomenon, recollection bias and reconstruction bias. Indeed, Coolin et al. (2015) found that older adults with lower inhibitory control were less likely to recall their earlier predictions in the presence of outcome knowledge (lower recollection ability) and were more likely to be biased by outcome knowledge when reconstructing their forgotten predictions (higher reconstruction bias) than those with higher inhibitory control. In the present study, we assess intraindividual differences in older adults’ recollection and reconstruction processes using a within-subjects manipulation of inhibition. We tested 80 older adults (Mage = 71.40, range = 65 to 87) to assess whether (a) experimentally increasing inhibition burden via outcome rehearsal during the HB task impacts the underlying HB processes, and (b) the effects of this outcome rehearsal manipulation on the underlying HB processes vary with individual differences in cognitive abilities. Our findings revealed that outcome rehearsal increased recollection bias independently of individuals’ cognitive abilities. Conversely, outcome rehearsal only increased reconstruction bias in individuals with higher inhibitory control, resulting in these individuals performing similarly to individuals with lower inhibitory control. These observations support the role of inhibitory control in older adults’ HB and suggest that even individuals with higher inhibition ability are susceptible to HB when processing resources are limited.

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