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The aging decision-maker: Advances in understanding the impact of cognitive change on decision-making

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Note: The deadline for abstract submission has now passed, but we welcome new manuscript submissions on or before the 18th December 2015. Please contact the Topic Editors directly if you did not submit an abstract but would like to contribute to this Topic.

The proportion of the global ...

Note: The deadline for abstract submission has now passed, but we welcome new manuscript submissions on or before the 18th December 2015. Please contact the Topic Editors directly if you did not submit an abstract but would like to contribute to this Topic.

The proportion of the global population over the age of 65 is expected to increase to 24% by 2050 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2004). The aging population will have a significant impact on society. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that scientific focus has become heavily concentrated on providing a clear picture of how the mind succumbs to the effects of time. From a cognitive perspective, we know that aging is associated with cognitive changes, and that this affects various everyday tasks. One such task is decision-making. Decision-making involves the search, selection and use of information in order to make a judgement about an option (e.g., what are the chances that I will suffer from the side-effects of this medicine?) or make a choice between two or more options (e.g., which retirement plan is best for me?). In order to overcome problems associated with decision-making in cognitively impaired elderly people, legal interventions require others such as relatives, carers or medical and legal professionals to make decisions on their behalf (known as proxies or surrogates). However, this is typically reserved for those diagnosed with dementia, meaning that the vast majority of the aging population are left unaided when making important decisions that can affect their health, finances, and overall quality of life. Moreover, elderly adults in positions of power, such as politicians and judges, make important decisions on a daily basis that affect the lives of others.

It is important to understand how age-related changes in basic cognitive functions (e.g., memory, attention, perception, processing speed, inhibition, etc) affect decision-making. We know that some cognitive processes (e.g., perception, implicit memory) are less impaired with age, while others, such as processing speed and recall memory, show large decrements. It has been suggested that older adults are more likely to have an increasing preference for intuitive decision strategies (experiential, heuristic, associative), while analytic decision- making (rational and rule-based) is impaired with age. Research needs to systematically investigate this hypothesis, and examine the relationship between cognitive changes in the aging adult mind and decision-making strategies. Is the change in analytic decision-making with age related to decrements in those cognitive processes that are subject to greater compromise? Is the reliance on intuitive decision strategies in the elderly linked to the preservation of several other cognitive processes?

The focus of this Research Topic is on the impact of age-related cognitive changes on decision-making. We welcome empirical and theoretical contributions on the cognitive drivers of changes in decision-making with age. Possible topics could include (a) empirical studies of changes in decision-making strategies with age that are related to changes in cognitive processes; (b) cognitive aging and decision competency; (c) cognitive aging and decision-making under risk and/or uncertainty; and (e) interventions to improve/support decision-making in the elderly with a focus on the cognitive mechanisms involved. Reviews and meta-analyses will also be considered.


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