Category Archives: Development stage

Aging and Decisions from Experience

homerThis post is based on the paper: “The role of cognitive abilities in decisions from experience: Age differences emerge as a function of choice set size,” by Renato Frey, Rui Mata,  and Ralph Hertwig that appeared in Cognition 142 (2015) 60–80.

People seldom enjoy access to summarized information about risky options before making
a decision except for things like weather forecasts that explicitly state a probability. Instead, they may search for information and learn from the environment—thus making decisions from experience. Many consequential decisions—including health care choices, finances, and everyday risks (e.g., driving in bad weather; crossing a busy street)—are made without full knowledge of the possible outcomes and their probabilities so we must make decisions from experience. According to the authors, the mind’s most notable transformation across the life span is a substantial decline in processing speed, working memory and short-term memory capacity —all components potentially involved in search and learning processes.

Continue reading

Fuzzy trace theory and adolescent medical decisions

fttimagesThis post is based on the paper, “Fuzzy Trace Theory and Medical Decisions by Minors:  Differences in Reasoning between Adolescents and Adults,” by Evan Wilhelms and Valerie Reyna that appeared in the June 2013, Journal of Medical Philosophy. This is an application of Fuzzy Trace Theory to the medical decision setting. The concept is more generally addressed in the first of three posts: FTT Meaning, Memory, and Development.

The mature minor exception allows adolescents under the age of 18 to make medical decisions and consent to procedures with equivalent authority of an adult. Although this was originally conceived to be applied in emergency situations in which parents are not available, it now according to Wilhelms and Reyna represents a blanket exception for those over the age of 14, so long as the benefits outweigh the risks and the adolescent is not otherwise deemed intellectually incapable. This expansion of rights has been used for easier access to abortion and contraceptives without parental consent, as well as the access to treatment for sexually transmitted infections, addictions, mental health problems and prenatal care. On occasion, this expanded legal standing of minors has been used to justify treatment refusal.

Continue reading

Elderly Memory v. Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s

downloadIn my 60s I can attest to my weakened ability to recall.  It is ridiculous.  This post looks at a paper that is written most prominently by the authors of fuzzy trace theory, Brainerd and Reyna. “Dual-Retrieval Models and Neurocognitive Impairment” appeared online on August 26, 2013 in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. (The post also uses an online source, The Cornell Chronicle, in an article dated September 5, 2013, entitled: “Breakthrough discerns normal memory loss from disease”, and was written by Karene Booker.) It comes up with some interesting conclusions.

Continue reading

Fuzzy-Trace Theory- Experts and Future Direction


Experts are important in helping to make decisions about health and safety so their risk perception and decision processes are important to understand. Reyna gives as examples: the emergency room physician deciding about the risk of a patient for a heart attack, the meteorologist deciding about tornado risk, and a lawyer evaluating potential damage awards to decide to settle or go to trial.  Conventional wisdom is that experts apply precise analysis and numerical reasoning to achieve the best outcomes, while novices are more like to reason without analysis or numerical reasoning.

Continue reading

Fuzzy Trace Theory-Meaning, Memory, Development

gistimagesI discussed this theory briefly in the post Development Stages of Intuition and Analysis.  I am finally going to tackle it in a more detailed fashion. Valerie Reyna and her husband Charles Brainerd are the authors of fuzzy trace theory.  This theory is about twenty five years old, but has been ignored by the most renown psychologists so far as I can tell. The theory is supported by much empirical testing. Reyna and Brainerd moved together from the University of Arizona to Cornell and it seems that the theory has gained something of a foothold.  Reyna is a tireless researcher, speaker, and writer  and has also made something of a name for herself in the public press with false memory phenomena.  I find her ideas persuasive although not complete, and I find it frustrating that I have not found much discussion of her ideas among her colleagues. This is especially surprising since she was a student of Amos Tversky. Dan Kahneman has never mentioned it so far as I can tell.  If you know where to look, please let me know.  I am going to try to summarize the basic ideas in three separate posts based on her paper:  “A new intuitionism:  Meaning, memory, and development in Fuzzy Trace Theory” found in the May 2012 issue of Judgment and Decision Making.

Continue reading