Washington, July 11 : A new study from West Virginia University has shown that younger adults were more likely to commit to a situation if they had already invested money into it, while older adults showed a more balanced perspective of gains and losses.
In the study led by psychologists JoNell Strough, Clare Mehta, Joseph McFall and Kelly Schuller from West Virginia University, college students and senior citizens with two vignettes to assess how likely each age group would be to watch a boring, paid-for movie versus a boring, free movie.
The first vignette specifically read, "You paid 10.95 dollars to see a movie on pay TV. After five minutes, you are bored and the movie seems pretty bad"; the other vignette did not mention the cost.
The subjects were then asked to select five options regarding their projected time commitment- stop watching entirely, watch for ten more minutes, watch for twenty more minutes, watch for thirty more minutes or watch until the end.
They found that the older adults spent the same amount of time watching the movie irrespective of monetary investment, while the young adults chose to invest more time in the paid-for movie than the free movie in order to avoid wasting 10.95 dollars.
The psychologists said that older adults' more balanced view may help them recognize that, once made, this type of investment cannot be recovered simply by committing more time to the activity.
"Younger adults show a negativity bias," Strough explained. "They weigh negative information, such as the lost investment, more heavily than positive information and so they try to 'recover' the lost investment by investing more time."
On the other hand, older adults are more likely to view the positive side of situations; therefore, their decisions reflect a more balanced view of gains and losses.
The results appear in the July issue of Psychological Science, a publication of the Association for Psychological Science.