Decision-making in adolescents

We make decisions all the time, from simple ones such as what to make for dinner to more complex ones, such as whether or not to take a new job. To do so, we use the different decision-making strategies, which make use of our past experiences and of our knowledge about the world.

Some of these strategies require a lot of cognitive effort, but give more accurate results, others need less, but have worse outcomes. Studies show that people adapt how they rely on these strategies based on cost-benefit evaluations. In other words, they rely on the strategies requiring more effort when potential outcomes are more important – for example avoiding losses, considered more important than seeking gains, as shown in a SCIoI study by our member Florian Bolenz, published on Child Development.

The study, called “Valence bias in metacontrol of decision making in adolescents and young adults,” also (and most importantly) shows that while adolescents (12+) are still developing the capacity for these more complex decision-making strategies, they are already able to dynamically adapt their reliance to the these different strategies, although these adaption skills still tend to develop across adolescence. This means that the older adolescents are, the better is their ability to adapt their reliance on the different strategies. On the other hand, younger children have been shown by other studies to not be as good to adapt their reliance to the different strategies of decision making.

Studies like this one, just like the SCIoI project Florian Bolenz is working on, help us to understand complex human behavior as an interplay of different strategies. These insights might ultimately help us build better AI systems that make decisions based on selecting the most efficient strategy.




An overview of our scientific work

See our Research Projects