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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Behav. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2019.00171

Age and Gender Effects in Sensitivity to Social Rewards in Adolescents and Young Adults

  • 1Department of Clinical, Neuro and Developmental Psychology, Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences, VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 2Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Leiden University, Netherlands
  • 3Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition (LIBC), Netherlands
  • 4Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, Faculty of Brain Sciences, University College London, United Kingdom

Adolescence is a sensitive period for socio-cultural processing and a vast literature has established that adolescents are exceptionally attuned to the social context. Theoretical accounts posit that the social reward of social interactions plays a large role in adolescent sensitivity to the social context. Yet, to date it is unclear how sensitivity to social reward develops across adolescence and young adulthood and whether there are gender differences. The present cross sectional study (N = 271 participants, age 11-28 years) examined age and gender effects in self-reported sensitivity to different types of social rewards. In order to achieve this aim, the Dutch Social Reward Questionnaire for Adolescents (SRQ-A) was validated. Findings revealed that each type of social reward was characterized by distinct age and gender effects. Feeling rewarded by gaining positive attention from others showed a peak in late adolescence, while enjoying positive reciprocal relationships with others showed a linear increase with age. Enjoying cruel behavior towards others decreased with age for girls, while boys showed no changes with age and reported higher levels across ages. Reward from giving others control showed a mid-adolescent dip, while enjoying group interactions did not show any changes with age. Taken together, the results imply that the social reward of social interactions is a nuanced and complex construct, which encompasses multiple components that show unique effects with age and gender. These findings enable us to gain further traction on the ubiquitous effects of the social context on decision-making in adolescent’s lives.

Keywords: social reward, Social context, age, gender, adolescence, SRQ-A

Received: 26 Feb 2019; Accepted: 12 Jul 2019.

Edited by:

Amanda E. Guyer, University of California, Davis, United States

Reviewed by:

Luigia Trabace, University of Foggia, Italy
Anna Weinberg, McGill University, Canada  

Copyright: © 2019 Altikulac, Bos, Foulkes, Crone and van Hoorn. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Eveline A. Crone, Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Leiden University, Leiden, 3B48, Netherlands,