Framing Matters: Effects of Framing on Older Adults’ Exploratory Decision-Making

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We examined framing effects on exploratory decision-making. In Experiment 1 we tested older and younger adults in two decision-making tasks separated by one week, finding that older adults’ decision-making performance was preserved when maximizing gains, but it declined when minimizing losses. Computational modeling indicates that younger adults in both conditions, and older adults in gains maximization, utilized a decreasing threshold strategy (which is optimal), but older adults in losses were better fit by a fixed-probability model of exploration. In Experiment 2 we examined within-subject behavior in older and younger adults in the same exploratory decision-making task, but without a time separation between tasks. We replicated the older adult disadvantage in loss minimization from Experiment 1 and found that the older adult deficit was significantly reduced when the loss-minimization task immediately followed the gains-maximization task. We conclude that older adults’ performance in exploratory decision-making is hindered when framed as loss minimization, but that this deficit is attenuated when older adults can first develop a strategy in a gains-framed task.

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