Brains age and many research projects have shown younger minds perform better than older minds in tests of decision-making. But in a test where decisions at each step affected not only the immediate reward but also the size of future rewards eldery people beat college-age students in a mental game.
We make decisions all our lives—so you'd think we'd get better and better at it. Yet research has shown that younger adults are better decision makers than older ones. Some Texas psychologists, puzzled by these findings, suspected the experiments were biased toward younger brains.
So, rather than testing the ability to make decisions one at a time without regard to past or future, as earlier research did, these psychologists designed a model requiring participants to evaluate each result in order to strategize the next choice, more like decision making in the real world.
Perhaps older minds have decades of experiences where going for immediate rewards is no always optimal.
Older folks beat the young when a large advantage accrued from thinking ahead.
In the first experiment, groups of older (ages 60 to early 80s) and younger (college-age) adults received points each time they chose from one of four options and tried to maximize the points they earned. In this portion, the younger adults were more efficient at selecting the options that yielded more points.
In the second experiment—the setup was a sham test of two "oxygen accumulators" on Mars—the rewards received depended on the choices made previously. The "decreasing option" gave a larger number of points on each trial, but caused rewards on future trials to be lower. The "increasing option" gave a smaller reward on each trial but caused rewards on future trials to increase. In one version of the test, the increasing option led to more points earned over the course of the experiment; in another, chasing the increasing option couldn't make up for the points that could be accrued grabbing the bigger bite on each trial.
The older adults did better on every permutation.
Perhaps older minds have learned thru repeated trial-and-error that one should play a longer term game.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2011 August 23 11:47 PM Brain Performance|