2017 SPARK Talk @ Cornell University

Follow-up experiment: Nolte, Löckenhoff & Reyna (2022) [Link]

2018 SPARK Talk @ Cornell University

This experiment: Nolte & Löckenhoff (2021) [Link] 

Ongoing Projects

I want people to lead longer, healthier, and happier lives. To this end, my current lines of research examine how we can encourage older adults to make informed choices, stop avoiding decisions, and foster positive relationships.

Age Differences in Information Avoidance


According to meta-analytical findings (Mata & Nunes, 2010), older adults consider fewer pieces of information before making a decision than younger adults do. However, past research has failed to examine the role of information formatting as well as age-related differences in information processing. Fuzzy-Trace Theory posits that information can be stored and processed using either objective verbatim traces (such as "$10") or subjective gist traces (such as "low price"). Decision makers' preference for either verbatim- or gist-based information processing is known to differ between individuals.


Across two papers and three online studies, we establish that older adults not only underuse decision-relevant information but that they actively avoid it when given the chance to. Notably, we observe age differences in information avoidance in both hypothetical and real-life contexts, although whether or not age differences occur depends on the way avoidance is measured. [Link] [Supplement] [Pre-reg Study 1] [Pre-reg Study 2] | [Link] [Supplement] [Pre-reg] [About] 

In a lab-based study involving N = 134 younger and older adults, we find that older adults show and voice stronger preferences for gist-based information processing and gist-formatted information (such as "very good", "poor") than younger adults, who prefer verbatim-based processing and verbatim information (such as "$10", "5 minutes"). In addition, information formatting influences younger and older adults' consideration of pre-decisional information, but these age differences are no longer significant when we accounted for age differences in information processing and information preferences. [Link] [Supplement] [About]

The same participants (Nolte et al., 2022) also responded to a 10-minute semi-structured interview about their subjective information preferences. We asked participants to elaborate on their preference for receiving verbatim-formatted versus gist-formatted information. Furthermore, participants described whether their preferences varied across contexts (e.g., medical contexts versus consumer contexts) and information sources (e.g., close others versus experts). Interview data will be coded for the purpose of qualitative analyses.

In past work, we have demonstrated that older adults are more likely to actively avoid decision-relevant information than younger adults are (Deng et al., 2022; Nolte et al., 2021). Drawing on two online samples with over 600 participants combined, we will examine whether age differences in information avoidance are influenced by the way available information is formatted as well as participants' information processing preferences.

Age Differences in Decision Avoidance


In both laboratory-based experiments and real-world decision contexts, older adults are more likely to avoid, delay, or outsource decisions than younger adults are. Although age-related differences in decision avoidance are well-established in the research literature, the underlying reasons remain unclear: Why do older adults prefer to avoid decisions? How can we encourage this age group to make their own decisions? These are some of the questions I am addressing in my dissertation.


In a large online sample (N = 500), we examined whether older adults are more vulnerable to default options - elements of the decision environment that encourage passive decision making. In addition, we explored whether older adults describe themselves as more susceptible to factors that are known to encourage the acceptance of default options. [Conference poster] [Pre-registration]

Using data from a lab-based study (N = 90), we examined age-related differences in response to and regulation of decision regrets. Across both open-ended questions and questionnaire items, we explored whether older adults intentionally rely on decision avoidance or decreased engagement with the decision process to avoid future feelings of regret. 

Across two online studies (N = 164 and N = 485, respectively), we are examining whether age-related differences in decision avoidance can be traced back to (1) age-related decrements in cognitive abilities, (2) age-related increments in perceived decision difficulty and effort, or (3) age-related differences in pre-, peri-, and post-decisional affect. In addition, Study 2 attempts to encourage active decision making by adapting a writing intervention known to improve decision satisfaction.

Aging and Relationships


At all ages, the quality of our inter- and intragenerational relationships and interactions can help or hinder our well-being. The "linked lives" perspective of life-span development suggests that individual lives are embedded in the context of other people's lives, and that older adults' well-being is influenced by the well-being of those around them, such as their children. With age, older adults increasingly value close social relationships (such as family ties), suggesting that negative interactions and family conflicts are especially costly for older adults.


This project draws on interview data from n = 43 middle-aged and older adults estranged from an adult child, and n = 48 adults estranged from a middle-aged or older adult parent (collected as part of the Cornell University Family Reconciliation Project). Applying directed content analysis, we identify 22 reasons across 8 categories underlying older parent-adult child estrangement. Estrangements are perceived as multi-causal and most often attributed to individual characteristics of the person the interviewee as estranged from, such as personality/behavioral or mental health issues.

Using a representative sample of N = 1,332 US adults, we document an estrangement prevalence rate of 26.2%, suggesting one in every four US adults is currently estranged from at least one family member (a number higher than existing prevalence estimates of 10-12%). Estrangements were more common among indirect relations such as in-laws and cousins and more likely to occur among middle-aged adults and those who had obtained at least a bachelor's degree.

As part of the Cornell University Building a Community Legacy Together project, we paired half of N = 93 middle and high school youth with older adults in their community. Those randomized to the BCLT program were trained and conducted interviews with the older adults to learn about older adults' lessons for living. These lessons were then processed and presented to the community by the children. The project was well-liked by both youth and older adults and led to more positive attitudes toward older people, comfort interacting with older people, and interest in working with older people for the younger participants.

Studying N = 2011 residents across 10 nursing homes in both urban and suburban New York state facilities, we find that various factors put older adults at risk of experiencing resident-ot-resident mistreatment: Altercations are more common among residents who are younger, reside in dementia or behavioral special care units, and show higher levels of behavior disorder or depression. In addition, mistreatment was negatively associated with functional impairment, cognitive impairment, and identifying as African American.

Research Principles

To conduct high-quality and reproducible work, I aim to make my research more transparent and accessible.


Deng, Nolte & Löckenhoff (2022) [Pre-reg 1] [2]

Nolte, Deng, & Löckenhoff (2021) [Pre-reg]

Nolte & Löckenhoff (2021) [Pre-reg]

Nolte & Löckenhoff (2022) [Pre-reg]

Study Materials

Deng, Nolte & Löckenhoff (2022) [Supp] • Nolte, Deng & Löckenhoff (2021) [Supp] • Nolte, Hanoch et al. (2021a) [Supp] • Nolte, Hanoch et al. (2021b) [Supp] • Nolte & Löckenhoff (2021) [Supp] 

Nolte, Löckenhoff & Reyna (2022) [Supp] 

Analysis Code & Data

Nolte & Löckenhoff (2022) [OSF]

Nolte, Löckenhoff & Reyna (2022) [OSF]