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Front Neurosci. 2012 Jan 6;5:145. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2011.00145. eCollection 2012.

Age-based differences in strategy use in choice tasks.

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  • 1Motivation and Cognition Interface Lab, Department of Psychology/Cognitive, Texas A&M University College Station, TX, USA.

Abstract

We incorporated behavioral and computational modeling techniques to examine age-based differences in strategy use in two four-choice decision-making tasks. Healthy older (aged 60-82 years) and younger adults (aged 18-23 years) performed one of two decision-making tasks that differed in the degree to which rewards for each option depended on the choices made on previous trials. In the choice-independent task rewards for each choice were not affected by the sequence of previous choices that had been made. In contrast, in the choice-dependent task rewards for each option were based on how often each option had been chosen in the past. We compared the fits of a model that assumes the use of a win-stay-lose-shift (WSLS) heuristic to make decisions, to the fits of a reinforcement-learning (RL) model that compared expected reward values for each option to make decisions. Younger adults were best fit by the RL model, while older adults showed significantly more evidence of being best fit by the WSLS heuristic model. This led older adults to perform worse than younger adults in the choice-independent task, but better in the choice-dependent task. These results coincide with previous work in our labs that also found better performance for older adults in choice-dependent tasks (Worthy et al., 2011), and the present results suggest that qualitative age-based differences in the strategies used in choice tasks may underlie older adults' advantage in choice-dependent tasks. We discuss possible factors behind these differences such as neurobiological changes associated with aging, and increased use of heuristics by older adults.

KEYWORDS:

aging; computational modeling; decision-making; heuristics; reinforcement learning

PMID:
22232573
[PubMed]
PMCID:
PMC3252562
Free PMC Article
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