Brand, Matthias; Markowitsch, Hans J.:

Mechanisms contributing to decisionmaking difficulties in late adulthood – theoretical approaches, speculations and empirical evidence

In: Gerontology, Jg. 56 (2010) ; Nr. 4, S. 435-440
ISSN: 0304-324X, 1423-0003
Zeitschriftenaufsatz / Fach: Angewandte Kognitionswissenschaften
Fakultät für Ingenieurwissenschaften » Informatik und Angewandte Kognitionswissenschaft
This paper responds to McCarrey, Henry and Luszcz’s reply to our viewpoint article on aging and decision-making. McCarrey et al. have provided a thoughtful critique and very inspiring suggestions for future research. We comment on several aspects that have been considered by these authors. In particular, we consider the empirical evidence for cognitive functions involved in decision-making, Finucane’s model on real-world decision-making, the form of contextual encoding of information related to a decision, components of the so-called Socioemotional Selectivity Theory, and parts of autobiographical memory functions. We argue that the mechanisms suggested by McCarrey et al. indeed may potentially contribute to decision-making difficulties in late adulthood. However, we also point out that – at least for gambling situations which have been addressed in our target article – the most convergent findings revealed by previous empirical studies give evidence for the important role of executive functioning and feedback processing for decision-making reductions in older adults as measured by neuropsychological gambling tasks. The additional mechanisms suggested and the potential link between other types of decision-making (e.g. within the social domain) and performance on gambling tasks as proposed by McCarrey et al. are worth investigating in future studies. We conclude that the arguments by McCarrey et al. are without doubt plausible, but for the topic addressed in the viewpoint article they are, so far, rather speculative than evidence-based. The possible interactions between cognitive and emotional processes and further situational and individual facets potentially influencing decision-making in older adults are to be investigated empirically in future studies. We hope that our previous viewpoint article in combination with the thoughtful reply by McCarrey et al. and our current paper will inspire future research programs on the important topic of decision-making in late adulthood.