What is it about?

This cross-sectional study of adults aged 18-92 found that aging was associated with failing to avoid others who previously acted unfairly. This financially costly decision-making in older adults was caused both by episodic memory decline (which also impacted nonsocial memory-based choices) and by a tendency to approach others who were familiar.

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Why is it important?

This work has important implications for preventing the financial exploitation of older adults, especially for preventing repeated victimization. Older adults are less likely to avoid unfair others that they have encountered before, not only because of their episodic memory deficits, but also because of their prosocial motivations. Most of the time, these motivational changes are not problematic (and may even be adaptive), but there are times when they could lead to disastrous financial consequences.


This article is the result of a monumental team effort. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we were less than halfway through data collection, but we were able to collect the remainder of the data over Zoom. I am so grateful not only to the individuals who collected the data (some of whom are coauthors), but also the participants. In particular, I'd like to acknowledge the older adults who are part of the longitudinal cohort at the Penn Memory Center. They are so generous with their time.

Karolina Lempert
Adelphi University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Aging is associated with maladaptive episodic memory-guided social decision-making, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, October 2022, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2208681119.
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