"Fortune favours the bold". Yet, risk taking seems to peak in young adulthood and decline across the adult life span in most countries around the globe. Is the world best tamed through patience and sensible caution? Or can older adults' potential aversion to risk and exploration lead them astray?

We are currently conducting research on the development of risk taking across the life span. Our goal is to understand how both culture and biology contribute to individual and age differences in how we deal with risk and uncertainty. We do so by conducting cross-cultural comparisons as well as longitudinal studies of age differences in risk taking in different domains of life. A guiding principle in our research is that risk taking serves an adaptive function and, therefore, cannot be understood without reference to the affordances and demands of the environment.

We hope that such knowledge can be used to understand when risk taking pays off and help decision makers of all ages make choices, big and small, such as those about wealth and health that pervade our lives.   

Representative Publications

  • Frey, R., Pedroni, A., Mata, R., Rieskamp, J., & Hertwig, R. (2017). Risk preferences shares the psychometric structure of major psychological traits. Science Advances, 3, e1701381. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1701381 🔗 osf

  • Pachur, T., Mata, R., & Hetwig, R. (2017). Who dares, who errs? Disentangling cognitive and motivational roots of age differences in decisions under risk. Psychological Science, 28(4), 504-518. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797616687729 🔗 osf

  • Kellen, D., Mata, R., & Davis-Stober, C. P. (2017). Individual classification of strong risk attitudes: An application across lottery types and age groups. Psychonomic Bulletin & Reviewdoi: 10.3758/s13423-016-1212-5 🔗 osf

  • Mamerow, L., Frey, R., & Mata, R. (2016). Risk taking across the life span: A comparison of self-report and behavioral measures of risk taking. Psychology and Aging, 31, 711-723. doi: 10.1037/pag0000124 🔗 osf

  • Yu, J., Mamerow, L., Lei, X., Fang, L., & Mata, R. (2016). Altered value coding of ventromedial prefrontal cortex in healthy older adults. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. http://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2016.00210 🔗

  • Josef, A., K, Richter, D., Samanez-Larkin, G. R., Wagner, G., Hertwig, R., & Mata, R. (2016). Stability and change in risk-taking propensity across the life span. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 111(3), 430-450. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000090 🔗 osf

  • Mata, R., Josef, A. K., & Hertwig, R. (2016). Propensity for risk taking across the life span and around the globe. Psychological Science, 27, 231-243. doi: 10.1177/0956797615617811 🔗 osf

  • Rieger, M., & Mata, R. (2015). On the generality of age differences in social and non-social decision making. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 70(2), 200-212, doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbt088 🔗

  • Frey, R., Mata, R., Hertwig, R. (2015). The role of cognitive abilities in decisions from experience: Age differences emerge as a function of choice set size. Cognition, 142, 60-80. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2015.05.004 🔗

  • Samanez-Larkin, G.R., Worthy, D.A., Mata, R., McClure, S.M., Knutson, B. (2014). Adult age differences in frontostriatal representation of prediction error but not reward outcome. Cognitive Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience, 14 (2), 672–682. 🔗

  • Bundorf, M. K., Mata, R., Schoenbaum, M., & Bhattacharya, J. (2013). Are prescription drug insurance choices consistent with expected utility theory? Health Psychology, 32, 986-94. doi: 10.1037/a0033517  🔗

  • Mata, R., Josef, A., Samanez-Larkin, G. R., & Hertwig, R. (2011). Age differences in risky choice: A meta-analysis. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1235, 18-29. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2011.06200.x 🔗