Trust and trustworthiness in young and older adults

Phoebe E. Bailey*, Matthias Rieger, Ahmed A. Moustafa, Gillian Slessor, Peter G. Rendell, Ted Ruffman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


In a series of 1-shot economic trust games in which participants could make real monetary profits, but also risked losing money, 2 studies compared young and older adults' trust (amount invested with trustees) and trustworthiness (amount returned to investors by trustees). In Study 1, young (n = 35) and older (n = 32) participants acted as investors, and the age of simulated trustees (young, older) was manipulated. In Study 2, young (n = 61) and older (n = 67) participants acted in real life as both investors and trustees. They completed 2 face-to-face trust games with same- and other-age partners, and 3 anonymous trust games with same-, other-, and unknown-age partners. Study 1 found that young and older participants rate older trustees as appearing more trustworthy than young trustees, but neither group invest more with older than young trustees. Rather, older participants were more likely than young participants to invest money averaged across trustee age. In Study 2, there were no age-related differences in trust, but older adults were more trustworthy than young adults in anonymous games with same- and unknown-age partners. It was also found that young adults demonstrate greater reputational concerns than older adults by reciprocating more trust when face-to-face than anonymous. We discuss the complex influences of age on trust game investing and reciprocation, as well as the implications for older adults' wellbeing and financial security.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)977-986
Number of pages10
JournalPsychology and Aging
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2015
Externally publishedYes


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