Choosing to be happy? Age differences in ‘maximizing’ decision strategies and experienced emotional well-being

Maximizing is a decision strategy that seeks the very best option, which is more elaborate and potentially more regret-inducing than choosing an option that is ‘good enough.’ In surveys with a large national sample, we find that older adults are less likely than younger adults to self-report maximizing, which is associated with their better experienced well-being reported two years later. This pattern holds after controlling for demographic characteristics and negative life events. Our findings suggest that older adults could possibly be opting for decision strategies that make them happier. We discuss implications for interventions that aim to improve decision making.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.

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