Monday, January 30, 2012

Mind:  Competitiveness Peaks in Middle Age

New research finds middle-aged men are most willing to engage in competitive risk-taking.
Their study, described in the journal Psychology and Aging, was conducted at a shopping mall in Eugene, Oregon. Passersby were recruited to participate by the promise of earning anywhere from $2 to $15, depending on their decisions and performance. In the end, 543 people between the ages of 25 and 75 took part.

After a couple of practice rounds, each was instructed to perform a simple mental arithmetic task. They could either receive a fixed-rate payment of 25 cents per correct item, or opt for a competitive payment plan. If they chose the latter, they would be paid 50 cents per correct item, but only if they outscored a randomly chosen earlier participant.

So who was most willing to take a chance and double their money? The answer, by a wide margin, was men between the ages of 45 and 54. Both younger and older men were less willing to take the bet, with the percentage dropping off dramatically for those 65 and older.

This same pattern was found in women, although they were less eager than men to engage in competitive behavior at each stage of life. This confirms previous research that found a large gender gap regarding the willingness to compete — even in a task where women performed just as well as men.

For more, see Look Out, Kids: Competitiveness Peaks in Middle Age by Tom Jacobs, November 29, 2011 at Miller-McCune.

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