Parents: Are They Right? Do You Get Wiser with Age?
Researchers have been puzzled by studies that showed younger adults to be better decision-makers than older individuals. How could this be when adults have more experience and knowledge?
Experts suspected the findings resulted from experimental designs that tested the ability to make decisions one at a time without regard to the past or future, thus negating the influence of experience and judgment. However, in a new study, 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. When they utilized this methodology, older decision makers clearly made better choices.
They found that older adults are better at evaluating the immediate and delayed benefits of each option they choose from. They are better at creating strategies in response to the environment.
Younger adults excelled in tasks that reaped immediate rewards. Conversely, when successful decision-making was based upon the need to develop a theory of how rewards in the environment were structured, older adults were clearly superior.
Researchers believe this difference reflects the ways we use our brains as we age. Younger people make choices using the area of the brain called the ventral striatum – a region related to habitual, reflexive learning and immediate rewards: impulsivity. But as this portion of the brain declines, older adults compensate by using their pre-frontal cortices, where more rational, deliberative thinking is controlled.
In other words, older adults have developed wisdom – a talent that has now been confirmed in a lab setting. Moral of the story? Listen to your parents!
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