Forty eight younger (average CA = 21.71, SD = 3.58) and older (average CA = 69.31, SD = 3.84) males participated in a vocabulary task involving varying degrees of risk under neutral, supportive, and challenging instructions. The results indicated that older adults were more cautious than younger adults. Moreover, they selected tasks at which they would have higher probabilities of success; relative to their younger counterparts, they were less likely to raise their level of aspiration following success. No effect of instructions on cautiousness was found for either age group. The results were interpreted as indicative of the significant age differences in the achievement motivational dispositions of the groups. The findings suggest that older adults choose relatively easy tasks as a means of protecting themselves from engaging in self evaluation of important ability dimensions.
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