July 1, 2021
Reiter, A.M.F and Diaconescu, A.O. and Eppinger, B. Li, S.


Decoding others’ intentions accurately in order to adapt one’s own behavior is pivotal throughout life. In this study, we asked how younger and older adults deal with uncertainty in dynamic social environments. We used an advice-taking paradigm together with Bayesian modeling to characterize effects of aging on learning about others’ time-varying intentions. We observed age differences when comparing learning on two levels of social uncertainty: the fidelity of the adviser and the volatility of intentions. Older adults expected the adviser to change his/her intentions more frequently (i.e., a higher volatility of the adviser). They also showed higher confidence (i.e., precision) in their volatility beliefs and were less willing to change their beliefs about volatility over the course of the experiment. This led them to update their predictions about the fidelity of the adviser more quickly. Potentially indicative of stereotype effects, we observed that older advisers were perceived as more volatile, but also more faithful than younger advisers. This offers new insights into adult age differences in response to social uncertainty.

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