Date of Award

Winter 12-2023

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Master of Arts (AM/MA)

Degree Type



Intertemporal and risky decision-making predicts many problem behaviors that also decline with age, raising the question: Do intertemporal and risky decisions change with age? Despite the theoretical and empirical importance, the literature under both rubrics reveals inconsistent findings. Some studies suggest that these inconsistencies may be due to the presence of unassessed demographic differences. The present study examined age differences, evaluating the role of demographic variables in intertemporal and risky choice of gains and losses using the discounting framework. Four experiments were conducted, each with one of the four types of discounting: discounting of delayed gains, discounting of delayed losses, discounting of probabilistic gains, and discounting of probabilistic losses. Although individuals across the lifespan discounted the delayed and probabilistic outcomes in fundamentally similar ways, which were described by the hyperboloid discounting function, age differences in decision-making emerged: older adults chose larger, later rewards and smaller, sooner payment more often than younger adults, whereas there were no age-related differences in the discounting of probabilistic outcomes. In addition, income neither affected degree of discounting nor moderated the age effect in the discounting of probabilistic outcomes, but an age effect was evident in some income groups in the discounting of delayed outcomes: Older adults with lower income chose larger, later rewards more often than younger adults with lower incomes, whereas older adults with higher income chose smaller, sooner payments more often than younger adults with higher incomes.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Leonard Green

Committee Members

Joel Myerson, Michael J Strube