Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 164–172 | Cite as

Poor Decision Making Among Older Adults Is Related to Elevated Levels of Neuroticism

  • N. L. Denburg
  • J. A. Weller
  • T. H. Yamada
  • D. M. Shivapour
  • A. R. Kaup
  • A. LaLoggia
  • C. A. Cole
  • D. Tranel
  • A. Bechara
Original Article



A well-studied index of reasoning and decision making is the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT). The IGT possesses many features important to medical decision making, such as weighing risks and benefits, dealing with unknown outcomes, and making decisions under uncertainty.


There exists a great deal of individual variability on the IGT, particularly among older adults, and the present study examines the role of personality in IGT performance. We explored which of the five-factor model of personality traits were predictive of decision-making performance, after controlling for relevant demographic variables.


One hundred and fifty-two healthy cognitively intact adults (aged 26–85) were individually administered the IGT and the NEO Five-Factory Inventory.


In the older adults, but not the younger, higher NEO neuroticism was associated with poorer IGT performance.


Our findings are discussed in the context of how stress may impact cognitive performance and cause dysfunction of neural systems in the brain important for decision making.


Neuroticism Decision making Aging Frontal lobe Personality Stress 



Preparation of this article was supported by a National Institute on Aging Career Development Award to Natalie L. Denburg (K01 AG022033), by fellowship funding from the Iowa Scottish Rite Masonic Foundation, and by an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Centers for Education and Research on Therapeutics cooperative agreement #5 U18 HSO16094.


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Copyright information

© The Society of Behavioral Medicine 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. L. Denburg
    • 1
    • 5
  • J. A. Weller
    • 2
  • T. H. Yamada
    • 1
  • D. M. Shivapour
    • 1
  • A. R. Kaup
    • 1
  • A. LaLoggia
    • 1
  • C. A. Cole
    • 3
  • D. Tranel
    • 1
  • A. Bechara
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Neurology, Division of Behavioral Neurology and Cognitive NeuroscienceUniversity of Iowa College of MedicineIowa CityUSA
  2. 2.Decision ResearchEugeneUSA
  3. 3.Department of MarketingUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  5. 5.Department of Neurology, #2007 RCPUniversity of Iowa Hospitals and ClinicsIowa CityUSA

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