- Characterization of children's decision making: Sensitivity to punishment frequency, not task complexity.
- Child Neuropsychology
- Volume | Issue number
- 11 | 3
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Psychology Research Institute (PsyRes)
On a gambling task that models real-life decision making, children between ages 7 and 12 perform like patients with bilateral lesions of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC), opting for choices that yield high immediate gains in spite of higher future losses (Crone & Van der Molen, 2004). The current study set out to characterize developmental changes in decision making by varying task complexity and punishment frequency. Three age groups (7-9 years, 10-12 years, 13-15 years) performed two versions of a computerized variant of the original Iowa gambling task. Task complexity was manipulated by varying the number of choices participants could make. Punishment frequency was manipulated by varying the frequency of delayed punishment. Results showed a developmental increase in the sensitivity to future consequences, which was present only when the punishment was presented infrequently. These results could not be explained by differential sensitivity to task complexity, hypersensitivity to reward, or failure to switch response set after receiving punishment. There was a general pattern of boys outperforming girls by making more advantageous choices over the course of the task. In conclusion, 7-12-year-old children--like VMPFC patients--appear myopic about the future except when the potential for future punishment is high.
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