Shorter planning depth and higher response noise during sequential decision-making in old age

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


Forward planning is crucial to maximize outcome in complex sequential decision-making scenarios. In this cross-sectional study, we were particularly interested in age-related differences of forward planning. We presumed that especially older individuals would show a shorter planning depth to keep the costs of model-based decision-making within limits. To test this hypothesis, we developed a sequential decision-making task to assess forward planning in younger (age < 40 years; n = 25) and older (age > 60 years; n = 27) adults. By using reinforcement learning modelling, we inferred planning depths from participants' choices. Our results showed significantly shorter planning depths and higher response noise for older adults. Age differences in planning depth were only partially explained by well-known cognitive covariates such as working memory and processing speed. Consistent with previous findings, this indicates age-related shifts away from model-based behaviour in older adults. In addition to a shorter planning depth, our findings suggest that older adults also apply a variety of heuristical low-cost strategies.


Original languageEnglish
Article number7692
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2023

External IDs

PubMed 37169942
ORCID /0000-0001-9684-7705/work/142252288
ORCID /0000-0001-8409-5390/work/142254938
ORCID /0000-0001-5398-5569/work/150329478


Research priority areas of TU Dresden

ASJC Scopus subject areas


  • Humans, Aged, Adult, Middle Aged, Cross-Sectional Studies, Noise, Memory, Short-Term, Learning, Decision Making/physiology