Aging and Heuristics: Do Older Adults Use Different Cues to Evaluate Information? (2015-2016)

Older adults are often considered vulnerable consumers, targeted by political ads, financial requests and other sales pitches. This project team analyzed the role that memory plays in these kinds of everyday situations.

Memory encompasses much more than reminiscing about one’s personal past, and is known to be involved in a wide range of judgments, including judgments of truth and pleasantness and even consumer preferences. Given this, the team was interested in understanding the implications of the well-documented declines in memory that accompany healthy aging. A second aim was understanding the mechanism underlying the power of pictures: why does a claim seem truer if it is paired with a picture that provides no additional information?

In a study of 30 young adults (18-25 years) and 30 older adults (65-80 years), the team found that accurate memory for explicit assertions benefited from related knowledge only in older adults. People misremembered inferences often, and lacking supporting knowledge reduced inferences only in young adults. The high inference rate demonstrates the danger of misleading advertisements, according to the team's poster. Misinformation about products and their uses (e.g., toning shoes) likely comes about in part due to inappropriate inferences. These data complement the findings that older adults comprehend and misremember pragmatic inferences as often as young adults. Contrary to the team's predictions, they found no evidence that related knowledge harmed older adults. Rather, lack of supporting knowledge about a product’s mechanism decreased inferences only in young adults. However, supporting knowledge may offset the fluency older adults experience after repeated presentations; repeated exposure to leading statements reduces pragmatic inference rates in young adults, but increases their incidence in older adults.


Summer 2015 – Spring 2016

Team Outcomes

Reading “Control Weight” and Remembering “Lose Weight”: Aging, Knowledge, and Memory for Inferences (poster by Nadia M. Brashier, Julian Pino, Gabriella G. Rivera, Sarah L. Turner, Gavan J. Fitzsimons, Elizabeth J. Marsh, presented at the Cognitive Aging Conference, April 17, 2016, Atlanta, GA)

Can Reminders of Brands Make People Happier than Reminders of Romantic Partners? Perceived Control and Self-esteem as Mediators of Brand/Partner Comparisons (honors thesis by Sophie Alman, Psychology)


Nadia Brashier, Ph.D.

This Team in the News

These Ph.D. Graduates Played Key Roles in Their Bass Connections Projects

From Lab to Museum, Students Share Their Brain Research

Congratulations to the Student Leadership and Service Award Winners

See earlier related team, Aging and Reliance on Memory-based Heuristics (2014-2015).

Team Leaders

  • Gavan Fitzsimons, Fuqua School of Business
  • Elizabeth Marsh, Arts & Sciences-Psychology and Neuroscience

/graduate Team Members

  • Nadia Brashier, Psychology-PHD

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Julian Pino, Neuroscience (AB)
  • Gabriella Rivera, Psychology (AB)
  • Sarah Turner, Psychology (AB), History (AB2)