Decision-making, working memory, and age

In October I reported on a study that found older adults did better than younger adults on a decision-making task that reflected real-world situations more closely than most tasks used in such studies. It was concluded that, while (as previous research has shown) younger adults may do better on simple decision-making tasks, older adults have the edge when it comes to more complex scenarios. Unsurprisingly, this is where experience tells.


Mikels, J.A., Löckenhoff, C.E., Maglio, S.J., Carstensen, L.L., Goldstein, M.K. & Garber, A. 2010. Following your heart or your head: Focusing on emotions versus information differentially influences the decisions of younger and older adults. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 16(1), 87-95.

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When are two (or more) heads better than one?

We must believe that groups produce better results than individuals — why else do we have so many “teams” in the workplace, and so many meetings. But many of us also, of course, hold the opposite belief: that most meetings are a waste of time; that teams might be better for some tasks (and for other people!), but not for all tasks. So what do we know about the circumstances that make groups better value?


Bahrami, B., Olsen K., Latham P. E., Roepstorff A., Rees G., & Frith C. D. (2010).  Optimally Interacting Minds. Science. 329(5995), 1081 - 1085.

Basden, B.H., Basden, D.R., Bryner, S. & Thomas, R.L. III (1997). A comparison of group and individual remembering: Does collaboration disrupt retrieval strategies? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 23, 1176-1189.

Kirschner, F., Paas F., & Kirschner P. A. (2010).  Task complexity as a driver for collaborative learning efficiency: The collective working-memory effect. Applied Cognitive Psychology. n/a-n/a - n/a-n/a.

Mesmer-Magnus, J. R., & DeChurch L. A. (2009).  Information Sharing and Team Performance: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology. 94(2), 535 - 546.

Ormerod, T. 2005. The way we were: situational shifts in collaborative remembering. Research project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Weldon, M.S. & Bellinger, K.D. (1997). Collective and individual processes in remembering. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 23, 1160-1175.

Woolley, A. W., Chabris C. F., Pentland A., Hashmi N., & Malone T. W. (2010).  Evidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups. Science. science.1193147 - science.1193147.

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