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Uncertainty drives exploration of negative information across younger and older adults

Yagi, A., Fitzgibbon, L. ORCID:, Murayama, K., Shinomori, K. and Sakaki, M. ORCID: (2023) Uncertainty drives exploration of negative information across younger and older adults. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 23 (3). pp. 809-826. ISSN 1531-135X

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To link to this item DOI: 10.3758/s13415-023-01082-8


Although individuals generally avoid negative information, recent research documents that they voluntarily explore negative information to resolve uncertainty. However, it remains unclear (a) whether uncertainty facilitates exploration similarly when exploration is expected to lead to negative, neutral, or positive information, and (b) whether older adults seek negative information to reduce uncertainty like younger adults do. This study addresses the two issues across four experimental studies (N = 407). The results indicate that individuals are more likely to expose themselves to negative information when uncertainty is high. In contrast, when information was expected to be neutral or positive, the uncertainty surrounding it did not significantly alter individuals’ exploration behavior. Furthermore, we found that uncertainty increased the exploration of negative information in both older and younger adults. In addition, both younger and older adults chose to explore negative information to reduce uncertainty, even when there were positive or neutral alternatives. In contrast to the age-related similarities in these behavioral measures, older adults demonstrated reduced scores in questionnaires on sensation seeking and curiosity, relative to their counterparts who were younger. These results suggest that information uncertainty has a selective facilitation effect on exploration for negative information, and that normal aging does not alter this tendency, despite age-related reductions in self-reported measures of personality traits relevant to information seeking.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
ID Code:110938


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