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Psychol Aging. 2007 Mar;22(1):134-46.

Aging, emotion, and health-related decision strategies: motivational manipulations can reduce age differences.

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Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA.


According to socioemotional selectivity theory, age-related constraints on time horizons are associated with motivational changes that increasingly favor goals related to emotional well-being. Such changes have implications for emotionally taxing tasks such as making decisions, especially when decisions require consideration of unpleasant information. This study examined age differences in information acquisition and recall in the health care realm. Using computer-based decision scenarios, 60 older and 60 young adults reviewed choice criteria that contained positive, negative, and neutral information about different physicians and health care plans. As predicted, older adults reviewed and recalled a greater proportion of positive than of negative information compared with young adults. Age differences were eliminated when motivational manipulations elicited information-gathering goals or when time perspective was controlled statistically. Implications for improving decision strategies in older adults are discussed.

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