Decision making is an important area of study in psychology, because it ultimately affects behavior, as is demonstrated in studies discussing gambling and risky decisions. The research on factors affecting decision making is crucial, not just for the overall advancement of psychology, but because it has strong application value. It can be used for helping certain individuals make better decisions in important or stressful situations, and to decrease risky behavior overall.
Decision making is affected by a variety of factors. Gender seems to have the strongest effect on decisions regarding impulsivity, as is shown in studies using the Iowa Gambling task (e.g. Dretsch and Tipples, 2011). Gender differences are also present when making reward-related decisions under stress (Lighthall et al., 2012). Decision making is an executive function (Del Missier, Mantyla, and Bruine de Bruin, 2012). Demands on executive functioning are often considered more costly, closely connected with the conveyed costs of self control (Kool, McGuire, Wang, and Botvinick, 2013). Self-control requires looking past momentary gain for possible future rewards. Thus, the capacity for self-control influences decision making (Kool, McGuire, Wang, and Botvinick, 2013).
In addition, several studies focus on age-related changes in decision making. Children showed a change between age groups in the use of sequential decision making rules (Jansen, van Duijvenvoorde, and Huizenga, 2012). Adolescents were reported as making decisions based on risk and valence, much the way adults do. However, the research showed that while the amount of risky decisions made did not change throughout adolescence, decisions based on valence did change (Wolf, Wright, Kilford, Dolan, and Blakemore (2013). Across a life span, there is evidence that elder adults show more inconsistency in their decisions compared to other adults and adolescents, as well more reluctance in making higher risk decisions (Tymula, Belmaker, Ruderman, Glimcher, and Levy. 2013).
This paper’s focus is a review of the research on factors that affect cognitive decision making. In this paper I will first discuss the studies on gender as a factor, then I will describe the study on decision making and self control. Finally, I will analyze the studies relating age to decision making.
Dretsch and Tipples 2011 study on gender differences in decision making focused on high impulsive sensation seekers, that is, people who are more likely to take larger risks in behavior and decision making, and show less sensitivity to negative outcomes. The participants were measured for this trait using the Impulsive Sensation Seeking Scale (Dretsch and Tipples 2011). The study used a variant of the Iowa Gambling Task, where subjects are require to chose cards from four different decks in an attempt to earn the most monetary gain overall. In the variant version, one of the decks yields the highest initial losses but, if a...