Society is aging, with the demographics slowly shifting to a larger number of people who are over 60 years of age. We’ve always read that wisdom comes with age but there are other surprising things beside wisdom that will change as you grow older. Your decision making processes will change. It’s been found that as we age we are less willing to take risks. This is not due just to our maturity. Our brain structure affects our attitudes.
What factors are influencing our decision making?
- MRI tests shows that the thickness of the gray matter in a part of the brain known as the right posterior cortex causes behavioural changes. This area of the brain becomes less dense as we age. Everyone ages at a different rate so the volume of the gray matter in this area can predict how likely you are to take risks.
- Levels of dopamine in the brain also affect the likelihood of taking risks. Dopamine is involved in predicting which of your actions will lead to a reward. Our levels of dopamine decline as we age and these levels mirror the risks we will take for large rewards. Small risks for small rewards are more common in the older population.
Cognitive changes as we age affect our willingness to take risks and maybe wisdom has something to do with that also. After a lifetime of decision making and acquiring knowledge we have learned that sometimes taking a risk just isn’t worth it. Risk taking can also be related to personality type though even those who are classified as extroverts tend to become more introverted as they age.
Researchers are now trying to understand how they can improve cognition and affect a person’s brain structure so they can lead a healthier life. Once we understand each part of the brain and how it affects our behaviour we can work toward positively affecting it in the future. To read the full article on risk taking and aging, click here.