Age Differences in Social Decision-Making Preferences and Perceived Ability


Decision-making often occurs in a social context but is typically studied as if it were an individualistic process. In the present study, we investigated the relationships between age, perceived decision-making ability, and self-rated health with preferences for social decision-making, or making decisions with others. Adults (N = 1,075; ages 18–93) from an U.S. online national panel reported their preferences for social decision-making, perceived changes in decision-making ability over time, perceived decision-making ability compared to age peers, and self-rated health. We report on three key findings. First, older age was associated with being less likely to prefer social decision-making. Second, older age was associated with perceiving one’s ability to have changed for the worse over time. Third, social decision-making preferences were associated both with older age and perceiving one’s ability to make decisions was worse than age peers. Additionally, there was a significant cubic function of age, such that older age was associated with lesser preferences for social decision-making until around age 50. Preferences then increased slightly with age until about age 60, after which older age was once again associated with lesser preferences for social decision-making. Together, our findings suggest that compensating for perceived lack of competence compared to other people one’s age may motivate preferences for social decision-making across the life span. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved)

The full study can be viewed at Psychology and Aging.

Smith, K., Strough, J., Parker, A. M., & Bruine de Bruin, W. (2023). Age differences in social decision-making preferences and perceived ability. Psychology and Aging.