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Decision Making and Exploration During Childhood

  • Author(s): Sumner, Emily Sarah
  • Advisor(s): Sarnecka, Barbara W
  • et al.
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Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license
Abstract

This dissertation examines how decision-making strategies and exploration patterns change across the human lifespan. My research creates child-friendly versions of classical measures used to investigate adult’s decision making. In Chapters 2 and 3, I investigate what risk-taking looks like across development. By creating child-friendly versions the Iowa Gambling Task and the Balloon Analogue Risk Task, I find that children lean towards being more risk-seeking. However, many preschoolers seem to act randomly, suggesting that children do not understand the task at hand. In Chapters 4 and 5, I investigate how children balance exploration-exploitation by designing child-friendly bandit tasks. I find evidence that children are much more explorative than adults on bandit tasks. In Chapter 5, I uncover a potential benefit of high-levels of exploration during childhood; exploration helps children discover changes in the world that adults fail to notice. In Chapter 6, I discuss the limitations of exploration during childhood, specifically, I find that children do not demonstrate lower levels of inattentional blindness. Finally, in Chapter 7, I discuss the implications of these results for the fields of cognitive science, developmental psychology, education, evolutionary biology, and artificial intelligence.

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This item is under embargo until May 22, 2025.