Cognitive and Decision Sciences

The Center for Cognitive and Decision Sciences (CDS) seeks to understand how people of all ages make decisions. We use computational models, neuroimaging methods, and behavioral experiments to uncover individual and age differences in the cognitive processes underlying decision making. Our goal is to understand how cognitive and affective processes influence decisions and ultimately help individuals to make better choices in everyday life.

For current examples of our work, see:

  • Do older people take fewer risks?
    Studies by the University of Basel have shown that whether and how risk-taking propensity varies over a person’s life span depends in part on how risk taking is measured. When subjects are asked how they assess their risk propensity, a clear reduction with age is the result. However, this reduction is not necessarily observed for specific risk-taking tasks. Depending on the type of task set, the propensity measured in older people can be unchanged, lower or higher. These heterogeneous results could be caused by an age-related functional change in the brain.
  • Risk taking across the life span: the effects of hardship
    With increasing age, the propensity to take physical, social, legal or financial risks decreases. Researchers from the University of Basel and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin were able to show how factors such as poverty and income equality play a role. Their study based on data from 77 countries has been published in the journal Psychological Science.

  • Psychology: Does aging affect decision making?
    Aging is associated with significant decline in cognitive functions. But does this translate into poorer decision making? Psychologists from the University of Basel and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development report that in simple decision situations, older adults perform just as well as younger adults. However, according to their study published in the academic journal Cognition, aging may affect decision performance in more complex decision situations.