Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies Program on Energy and Sustainable Development Stanford University


Publications




Expected value information improves financial risk taking across the adult life span

Journal Article

Authors
Samanez-Larkin GR
Wagner AD
Knutson B

Published by
Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci, Vol. 6 no. 2, page(s) 207-17
2011


Abstract

When making decisions, individuals must often compensate for cognitive limitations, particularly in the face of advanced age. Recent findings suggest that age-related variability in striatal activity may increase financial risk-taking mistakes in older adults. In two studies, we sought to further characterize neural contributions to optimal financial risk taking and to determine whether decision aids could improve financial risk taking. In Study 1, neuroimaging analyses revealed that individuals whose mesolimbic activation correlated with the expected value estimates of a rational actor made more optimal financial decisions. In Study 2, presentation of expected value information improved decision making in both younger and older adults, but the addition of a distracting secondary task had little impact on decision quality. Remarkably, provision of expected value information improved the performance of older adults to match that of younger adults at baseline. These findings are consistent with the notion that mesolimbic circuits play a critical role in optimal choice, and imply that providing simplified information about expected value may improve financial risk taking across the adult life span.