The Age of Avoidance? The Roles of Context, Cognition, and Affect in Adult Age Differences in Decision Avoidance

Access Restricted

Access to this document is restricted. Some items have been embargoed at the request of the author, but will be made publicly available after the "No Access Until" date.

During the embargo period, you may request access to the item by clicking the link to the restricted file(s) and completing the request form. If we have contact information for a Cornell author, we will contact the author and request permission to provide access. If we do not have contact information for a Cornell author, or the author denies or does not respond to our inquiry, we will not be able to provide access. For more information, review our policies for restricted content.

No Access Until

Permanent Link(s)

Other Titles


Age-related increments in intentional decision avoidance pose risks to older adults’ financial and physical well-being. Because the factors underlying older adults’ avoidance tendencies remain understudied, this dissertation examines the potential roles of context, cognition, and affect across three decision avoidance phenomena: avoiding choice to maintain current circumstances, avoiding choice for the time being, and avoiding choice because not acting is preferred to acting. In a pre-registered online study, N = 500 adults (Mage = 49.90, SDage = 19.34, 18–89) were given the choice between actively rejecting and passively accepting 15 pre-selected “default” options pertaining to property rentals (Nolte & Löckenhoff, 2022). Contrary to expectations, the preference for maintaining current circumstances did not differ by age, and older adults were less likely to endorse known correlates of decision avoidance (i.e., perceived endowment or ease). Across one online and one hybrid study (N1 = 164, Mage_1 = 50.71, SDage_1 = 18.70, 19–85; N2 = 485, Mage_2 = 51.08, SDage_2 = 19.63), older age was associated with a higher likelihood of avoiding up to four health and consumer choices for the time being, with older and middle-aged but not younger adults reaping affective benefits post-avoidance (Nolte & Löckenhoff, in prep.). Higher perceived cognitive loads were linked to avoidant decision making but not the observed age-related differences. Finally, N = 90 adults (Mage = 49.81, SDage =18.71, 21–89) reported their most severe recent and long-term regrets in a laboratory-based study. Older age was associated with more inaction-based (“omission”) regrets (Nolte et al., in prep.) but not with reliance on decision avoidance to down-regulate regrets. Older adults also indicated a decreased willingness to engage with the decision process to improve their decision making. In sum, we document adult age differences in avoidance of choice for the time being as well as the preference for inaction over action, but not in the preference for maintaining current circumstances. Implications for contextual, cognitive, and affective factors relating to age-related differences within each avoidance phenomenon are being discussed.

Journal / Series

Volume & Issue


249 pages

Supplemental file(s) description: None.


Date Issued




Affect; Aging; Cognition; Context; Decision Avoidance; Lifespan


Effective Date

Expiration Date




Union Local


Number of Workers

Committee Chair

Loeckenhoff, Corinna

Committee Co-Chair

Committee Member

Ong, Anthony
Gilovich, Thomas

Degree Discipline

Human Development

Degree Name

Ph. D., Human Development

Degree Level

Doctor of Philosophy

Related Version

Related DOI

Related To

Related Part

Based on Related Item

Has Other Format(s)

Part of Related Item

Related To

Related Publication(s)

Link(s) to Related Publication(s)


Link(s) to Reference(s)

Previously Published As

Government Document




Other Identifiers


Rights URI


dissertation or thesis

Accessibility Feature

Accessibility Hazard

Accessibility Summary

Link(s) to Catalog Record