Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2016

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Psychological and Quantitative Foundations

First Advisor

Denburg, Natalie L.

Second Advisor

Liu, William Ming

First Committee Member

Ali, Saba R.

Second Committee Member

Cavanaugh, Joseph E.

Third Committee Member

Kivlighan, D. Martin, III


Older adults are faced with many complex and critical decisions regarding retirement, health care, finances, and living situation, and their ability to make such decisions successfully has a profound impact on the individual and society as a whole. Numerous neurologically and psychiatrically healthy older adults do not make advantageous decisions: they get swindled and make poor financial choices. The vulnerability of such older adults has been postulated to be the result of disproportionate aging of the frontal lobes. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether decision-making performance among older adults can be improved as a result of pharmacological and/or psychoeducational intervention. Healthy community-dwelling persons were recruited to participate in four conditions: Lexapro, placebo, psychoeducational condition (Problem Solving Therapy [PST]), and waitlist control. Twenty-six elderly persons participated. Only six seniors participated in the pharmacological conditions due to unanticipated challenges with recruitment (e.g., lack of interest in drug studies, contraindications to study drug). Statistical comparisons were conducted to compare performance on several laboratory tasks of decision-making under conditions of ambiguity, risk, and deceptive advertising, between the PST group and Control group. The findings suggest that a psychosocial intervention can be effective in the enhancement of decision-making ability under ambiguity among healthy community-dwelling older adults and as such can provide a foundation for future investigations.


aging, decision making, older adults, problem-solving therapy


x, 123 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 100-123).


This thesis has been optimized for improved web viewing. If you require the original version, contact the University Archives at the University of Iowa:


Copyright © 2016 Christopher Minh Nguyen