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Emotion, affect, and risk communication with older adults: challenges and opportunities

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Recent research suggests that emotion, affect, and cognition play important roles in risk perception and that their roles in judgment and decision-making processes may change over the lifespan. This paper discusses how emotion and affect might help or hinder risk communication with older adults. Currently, there are few guidelines for developing effective risk messages for the world's aging population, despite the array of complex risk decisions that come with increasing age and the importance of maintaining good decision making in later life. Age-related declines in cognitive abilities such as memory and processing speed, increased reliance on automatic processes, and adaptive motivational shifts toward focusing more on affective (especially positive) information mean that older and younger adults may respond differently to risk messages. Implications for specific risk information formats (probabilities, frequencies, visual displays, and narratives) are discussed and directions for future research are highlighted.

Keywords: affect; aging; decision making; emotion; judgment; older adults; risk communication

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Research Program, East-West Center, Honolulu, USA

Publication date: January 1, 2008

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