Older adults tend to focus more on positive than on negative experiences and events. Given this tendency, it is important to elucidate the mechanisms underlying the basic processes of selective attention to, and selective avoidance of, emotionally-relevant information while making health-related decisions. This study examined the behavioral and neural responses of older adults during decision-making, and during the resolution of affective and cognitive conflicts. Behavioral and neuroimaging results provided initial evidence that older adults are unimpaired in selectively attending to emotional information. These results have helped to elucidate basic decision-making processes in elderly adults, and delineated ways in which these processes are similar to and different from those used by younger adults. The study also adds to a growing literature examining the efficiency and effectiveness of the processing of emotional information in older adults, at both a psychological and a biological level of analysis. These findings have implications for understanding both how decisions about health-care options are made by elderly individuals, and the framework within which health-care information might be presented most effectively to younger and older individuals.
This study is a seed project for the Center on Advancing Decision Making for Aging.