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Curr Biol. 2016 Jun 20;26(12):1634-1639. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.05.017. Epub 2016 Jun 2.

Risk Taking for Potential Reward Decreases across the Lifespan.

Author information

1
Max Planck University College London Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research, London WC1B 5EH, UK; Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London, London WC1N 3BG, UK. Electronic address: robb.rutledge@ucl.ac.uk.
2
Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London, London WC1N 3BG, UK.
3
Max Planck University College London Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research, London WC1B 5EH, UK; Center for Lifespan Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, 14195 Berlin, Germany; European University Institute, San Domenico di Fiesole, 50014 Fiesole, Italy.
4
Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit, University College London, London W1T 4JG, UK.
5
Max Planck University College London Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research, London WC1B 5EH, UK; Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London, London WC1N 3BG, UK.

Abstract

The extent to which aging affects decision-making is controversial. Given the critical financial decisions that older adults face (e.g., managing retirement funds), changes in risk preferences are of particular importance [1]. Although some studies have found that older individuals are more risk averse than younger ones [2-4], there are also conflicting results, and a recent meta-analysis found no evidence for a consistent change in risk taking across the lifespan [5]. There has as yet been little examination of one potential substrate for age-related changes in decision-making, namely age-related decline in dopamine, a neuromodulator associated with risk-taking behavior. Here, we characterized choice preferences in a smartphone-based experiment (n = 25,189) in which participants chose between safe and risky options. The number of risky options chosen in trials with potential gains but not potential losses decreased gradually over the lifespan, a finding with potentially important economic consequences for an aging population. Using a novel approach-avoidance computational model, we found that a Pavlovian attraction to potential reward declined with age. This Pavlovian bias has been linked to dopamine, suggesting that age-related decline in this neuromodulator could lead to the observed decrease in risk taking.

PMID:
27265392
PMCID:
PMC4920952
DOI:
10.1016/j.cub.2016.05.017
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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