Sumary of Study: Older adults are just as capable as younger people of learning behaviors that benefit others:
- Older adults may be slower to learn actions and behaviors that benefit themselves, but new research shows they are just as capable as younger people of learning behaviors that benefit others.
- The study, published in Nature Communications, focused on reinforcement learning – a fundamental type of learning in which we make decisions based on the positive outcomes from earlier choices.
- It allows us to adapt our choices to our environment by learning the associations between choices and their outcomes.
- Reinforcement learning is one of the key ways in which humans – as well as animals and even plants – learn from and adapt to their environment.
- ” Dr Patricia Lockwood, Study Senior Author, School of Psychology and Centre for Human Brain Health, University of Birmingham “We need to make decisions and learn all the time based on the positive or negative feedback we receive.
- We find that older adults are worse than younger adults at learning from positive feedback on their own behaviour.
- However, surprisingly, when making choices that give positive feedback – money – to another person, older adults are just as good as younger adults”.
- In the study, the team worked with 80 younger and 80 older participants.