Bruine de Bruin, W., Parker, A. M., & Fischhoff, B.
(2020). Current Directions in Psychological Science.
Decision-making competence refers to the ability to make better decisions, as defined by decision-making principles posited by models of rational choice. Historically, psychological research on decision-making has examined how well people follow these principles under carefully manipulated experimental conditions. When individual differences received attention, researchers often assumed that individuals with higher fluid intelligence would perform better. Here, we describe the development and validation of individual-differences measures of decision-making competence. Emerging findings suggest that decision-making competence may tap not only into fluid intelligence but also into motivation, emotion regulation, and experience (or crystallized intelligence). Although fluid intelligence tends to decline with age, older adults may be able to maintain decision-making competence by leveraging age-related improvements in these other skills. We discuss implications for interventions and future research.
Implications for Interventions
Better understanding of how fluid intelligence and other skills support decision-making competence should facilitate the design of interventions. Below, we briefly consider directions for future research into potential cognitive, motivational, emotional, and experiential interventions for promoting decision-making competence.
In one intervention that aimed to provide cognitive support, Zwilling and colleagues (2019) found that training in core cognitive abilities improved decision-making competence, compared to an active control group (in which participants practiced to process visual information faster.) Effects of cognitive training can be enhanced by high-intensity cardioresistance fitness training, which improves connectivity in the brain (Zwilling et al., 2019). Rosi, Vecchi, & Cavallini (2019) found that prompting older people to ask ‘metacognitive’ questions (e.g., what is the main information?) was more effective than general memory training for improving performance on Applying Decision Rules. This finding is in line with suggestions that older adults perform better when they are asked to explain their choices (Kim, Goldstein, Hasher, & Zachs, 2005). Additional intervention approaches have aimed to reduce the need to rely on fluid intelligence. Using simple instead of complex decision rules may decrease cognitive demands, and cause fewer errors (Payne et al., 1993). Reducing the number of options also reduces cognitive demands, and may help especially older adults to improve their choices (Tanius, Wood, Hanoch, & Rice, 2009).