Eighteen young (mean age = 21.50; SD = 2.23) and 18 older (mean age = 68.17; SD = 3.13) adults participated in a vocabulary task involving varying degrees of risk with a payoff structure that varied either directly or inversely with risk. In contrast to prior research using constant payoff structures, the results did not indicate that older adults are more cautious than young adults. Further, for both age groups, risk-taking is a function of payoff structure. The data clearly question the generalization that the elderly are more cautious than young adults and suggest that risk, as a concept, should not be considered independently of payoff.
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