The Rational Adolescent: Strategic Information Processing during Decision Making Revealed by Eye Tracking.
Adolescence is often viewed as a time of irrational, risky decision-making - despite adolescents' competence in other cognitive domains. In this study, we examined the strategies used by adolescents (N=30) and young adults (N=47) to resolve complex, multi-outcome economic gambles. Compared to adults, adolescents were more likely to make conservative, loss-minimizing choices consistent with economic models. Eye-tracking data showed that prior to decisions, adolescents acquired more information in a more thorough manner; that is, they engaged in a more analytic processing strategy indicative of trade-offs between decision variables. In contrast, young adults' decisions were more consistent with heuristics that simplified the decision problem, at the expense of analytic precision. Collectively, these results demonstrate a counter-intuitive developmental transition in economic decision making: adolescents' decisions are more consistent with rational-choice models, while young adults more readily engage task-appropriate heuristics.
Kwak, Y; Payne, JW; Cohen, AL; Huettel, SA
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