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Age Effects and Heuristics in Decision Making

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Abstract

We examine in controlled experiments how individuals make choices when faced with multiple options. The choice tasks mimic the selection of health insurance, prescription drug, or retirement savings plans. However, in our experiment, the available options can be objectively ranked. We find that the probability of a person selecting the optimal option declines as the number of options increases, with the decline more pronounced for older subjects. Heuristics seem to differ by age with older subjects relying more on suboptimal decision rules. Behavior consistent with the estimated decision rules is observed in an out-of-sample experiment.

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  • Sudipta Sarangi & Tibor Besedes & Cary Deck & Mikhael Shor, 2009. "Age Effects and Heuristics in Decision Making," Departmental Working Papers 2009-03, Department of Economics, Louisiana State University.
  • Handle: RePEc:lsu:lsuwpp:2009-03
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    1. Cole, Catherine A & Balasubramanian, Siva K, 1993. " Age Differences in Consumers' Search for Information: Public Policy Implications," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(1), pages 157-169, June.
    2. Esther Duflo & Emmanuel Saez, 2003. "The Role of Information and Social Interactions in Retirement Plan Decisions: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 815-842.
    3. Keeney,Ralph L. & Raiffa,Howard, 1993. "Decisions with Multiple Objectives," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521438834.
    4. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    5. Florian Heiss & Daniel McFadden & Joachim Winter, 2010. "Mind the Gap! Consumer Perceptions and Choices of Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans," NBER Chapters,in: Research Findings in the Economics of Aging, pages 413-481 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Shlomo Benartzi & Richard H. Thaler, 2002. "How Much Is Investor Autonomy Worth?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 57(4), pages 1593-1616, August.
    7. Colin F. Camerer & Howard Kunreuther, 1989. "Decision processes for low probability events: Policy implications," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 8(4), pages 565-592.
    8. Richard G. Frank, 2004. "Behavioral Economics and Health Economics," NBER Working Papers 10881, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Kovalchik, Stephanie & Camerer, Colin F. & Grether, David M. & Plott, Charles R. & Allman, John M., 2005. "Aging and decision making: a comparison between neurologically healthy elderly and young individuals," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 58(1), pages 79-94, September.
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    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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