Todd Maddox of the University of Texas at Austin and Darrell Worthy of Texas A&M University and colleagues found 60-year-old adults were better at strategizing decisions than those in their late teens and early 20s, who tend to focus on instant gratification.
As part of the study, 28 older adults and 28 younger counterparts performed decision-making tasks, in which they only needed to consider immediate rewards to earn points. In this experiment, the younger adults were more efficient at selecting the options that yielded the best short-term rewards, the researchers said.
However, in a second experiment, the older participants outperformed the younger group in choosing options that resulted in long-term gains, such as strategically storing the most amount of oxygen in "oxygen accumulators" on an imaginary space mission in Mars.
The results, published in the journal Psychological Science, contradicted negative stereotypes of age and reasoning ability.
"Broadly, these results suggest that younger adults may behave more impulsively, favoring immediate gains, while older adults are better at considering the long-term ramifications of their actions," Maddox said in a statement.