Date of Defense




First Advisor

Dr. Cynthia J. Pietras

Second Advisor

Gabriel D. Searcy

Third Advisor

J. Adam Bennett


Throughout their lifespan, people are consistently presented with choices in which varying probabilities and/or outcomes factor into final decisions. Choices made under these conditions have been interpreted using the concept of discounting. According to this approach, outcomes are thought to decrease in value as a function of their delay or probability. Considering the ubiquity of these choices and the types of behaviors they describe, it is important to determine the relationship between age and discounting. In 1994, Green, Fry and Myerson published an experiment assessing sensitivity to delay across three different age groups which was measured by a delay discounting task. The present experiment systematically replicated this study to measure risk sensitivity across the life-span. A probability discounting task was therefore used in lieu of a delay discounting task. A cross-sectional design was used with two age groups - college students (18-22 years old) and older adults (52-86 years of age). Contrary to previous findings, college students discounted monetary values at a higher rate than older adults at two reward magnitudes ($1,000 and $10,000), suggesting that older adults are more risk prone than college students. This finding may be due to varying sensitivities to the presentation of the choice tasks between groups.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Campus Only