Decision-making heuristics and biases across the life span

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2011 Oct:1235:57-74. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2011.06208.x.


We outline a contextual and motivational model of judgment and decision-making (JDM) biases across the life span. Our model focuses on abilities and skills that correspond to deliberative, experiential, and affective decision-making processes. We review research that addresses links between JDM biases and these processes as represented by individual differences in specific abilities and skills (e.g., fluid and crystallized intelligence, executive functioning, emotion regulation, personality traits). We focus on two JDM biases-the sunk-cost fallacy (SCF) and the framing effect. We trace the developmental trajectory of each bias from preschool through middle childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, and later adulthood. We conclude that life-span developmental trajectories differ depending on the bias investigated. Existing research suggests relative stability in the framing effect across the life span and decreases in the SCF with age, including in later life. We highlight directions for future research on JDM biases across the life span, emphasizing the need for process-oriented research and research that increases our understanding of JDM biases in people's everyday lives.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Judgment*
  • Life Expectancy*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Motivation*