DOI: 10.1002/alz.079290 ISSN: 1552-5260

Age but not education affects social decision‐making in the Ultimatum Game paradigm

Luciana Cassimiro, Mario Amore Cecchini, Gabriela Cabett Cipolli, Monica Sanches Yassuda
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Neurology (clinical)
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Health Policy
  • Epidemiology



Decision‐making is a key cognitive ability for autonomy and quality of life in old age and it may be influenced by social context. Social decision‐making is often studied through the use of gaming paradigms, where participants allocate resources between themselves and others based on predefined rules. In a version of the Ultimatum Game (UG) decision‐making behaviour was modulated in response to fairness of monetary offers and social context of monetary offers designed to produce either prosocial or punishing behaviours. Previously, patients with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia were reported to be impaired in the UG when they needed to modulate their decisions in response to social contextual information. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether social decision‐making evaluated by the UG is affected by age and education. It is relevant to know whether sociodemographic variables may bias UG results.


A total of 131 healthy adults participated ‐ 35 were young university students and 96 were older adults. The sample was divided into three age groups (17‐ 22, 60‐ 69, 70‐79 years old) and three education groups (4‐8, 9‐11, 12 or more years of education). Participants completed a health questionnaire and cognitive tests to ascertain normal cognitive status.


Age and education did not affect performance in fair monetary offers. Differences were observed in the unfair conditions. The older group (70‐79) accepted less frequently the Baseline unfair offers (without social context), when compared with the young and the 60‐69 group (young = 60‐69 > 70‐79). Regarding the Prosocial unfair and Punishing unfair conditions, older adults accepted such offers more frequently (young < 60‐69 = 70‐79). In other words, when a prosocial context (for instance, unemployment) was added to unfair monetary offers, older adults accepted them more frequently than younger adults. Education effects were not observed.


In the context of social decision‐making, cognitively unimpaired older adults may show prosocial behaviors more frequently than younger adults. Findings suggested the UG is affected by age but not education.

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