Positivity effect and decision making in ageing

Fedor Levin, Susann Fiedler, Bernd Weber

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


Across various contexts, older adults demonstrate a positivity effect – an age-related increase in a relative bias toward positive emotional stimuli as compared to negative stimuli. Previous research has demonstrated how this effect can influence decision making processes, specifically information search and choice satisfaction. However, the potential impact of the positivity effect and resulting age differences in information acquisition on decision quality has not been conclusively determined. We conducted an online decision making study comprising choices among charitable organisations with 152 younger and 152 older adults to investigate this relationship. We did not observe the positivity effect defined as higher positivity bias in older compared to younger adults. On the contrary, younger adults showed a slightly higher positivity bias. We also did not observe a link between a bias in information search toward positive or negative stimuli and decision quality. The results replicate the link between positivity bias and decision satisfaction. Older and younger adults did not differ in their decision quality. Finally, the findings did not support a potential influence of loss prevention orientation. Further research is required to address the factors that could influence the positivity effect in decision making.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1 - 15
JournalCognition and Emotion
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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