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Adolescents Sample More Information Prior to Decisions Than Adults When Effort Costs Increase


Making better decisions typically requires obtaining information relevant to that decision. Adolescence is marked by increasing agency in decision-making and an accompanying increase in impulsive decisions, suggesting that one characteristic of adolescent decision-making is a tendency to make less-informed decisions. Adolescents could also be especially averse to the effort associated with acquiring relevant information to make decisions. To investigate this possibility, we recruited adolescents (Mage = 15.02 years) in upper-secondary schools and young adults (Mage = 20.53 years) attending university in the Netherlands to complete an effort-based information sampling task, in which participants could sample information until obtaining sufficient evidence to make a decision. Effort costs for sampling were systematically varied. Surprisingly, adolescents sampled more evidence than adults before making decisions when sampling effort costs were low. Further, adolescents obtained stronger evidence prior to their decisions than adults as effort costs increased, exhibiting less aversion to effort costs associated with information sampling. Exploratory computational models supported these findings. Both adolescents and adults used simple heuristics in deciding whether to sample additional information or make a final decision, and adolescents sought a higher evidence threshold before deciding compared with adults. These results suggest that adolescents may require more certainty to make decisions compared with adults and be less averse to effort costs when gathering information to aid decisions. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

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