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Using controlled experiments, we examine how individuals make choices when faced with multiple options. Choice tasks are designed to mimic the selection of health insurance, prescription drug, or retirement savings plans. In our experiment, available options can be objectively ranked, allowing us to examine optimal decision making. First, the probability of a person selecting the optimal option declines as the number of options increases, with the decline being more pronounced for older subjects. Second, heuristics differ by age, with older subjects relying more on suboptimal decision rules. In a heuristics validation experiment, older subjects make worse decisions than younger subjects.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Review of Economics and Statistics, volume 94, issue 2, 2012 following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available at DOI: 10.1162/REST_a_00174.

Peer Reviewed



MIT Press



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