Objectives: People's preferences for temporal sequences of events have implications for life-long health and well-being. Prior research suggests that other aspects of intertemporal choice vary by age, but evidence for age differences in sequence-preferences is limited and inconclusive. In response, the present research examined age differences in sequence-preferences for real outcomes administered in a controlled laboratory setting.
Methods: A pilot study examined sequence-preferences for aversive electrodermal shocks in 30 younger and 30 older adults. The main study examined sequence-preferences for electrodermal shocks, physical effort, and monetary gambles in an adult life-span sample (N = 120). It also examined emotional and physiological responses to sequences as well as underlying mechanisms including time perception and emotion-regulation.
Results: There were no significant age differences in sequence-preferences in either of the studies, and there were no age differences in responses to sequences in the main study. Instead, there was a domain effect with participants preferring decreasing sequences for shocks and mixed sequences for effort and money.
Discussion: After considering potential methodological limitations, theoretical contributions and implications for real-life decisions are discussed.