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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00191

Children's Neglect of Probabilities in Decision Making with and without Feedback

  • 1University of Erfurt, Germany

We investigated whether children prefer feedback over stated probabilistic information in decision making. 6-year-olds’, 9-year-olds’, and adults’ decision making was examined in an environment where probabilistic information about choice outcome had to be actively searched (N = 166) or was available without search (N = 183). Probabilistic information was given before choices as predictions of cues differing in validity. The presence of outcome feedback was varied. Six-year-olds, but not nine-year-olds were over-responsive to negative outcomes leading to choices biased by recent feedback. However, children did not systematically utilize feedback in choices. Irrespective of feedback, 6-year-olds fully and 9-year-olds partly neglected stated probabilistic information in their choices. When 6-year-olds chose systematically, they only relied on invalid information, which did not maximize outcomes. Nine-year-olds still applied invalid choice rules, but also choice rules based on probability. Results suggest that neglect of probabilities in complex decisions is robust, independent of feedback, and only starts to subside at elementary school age.

Keywords: Child decision making, Probabilistic inference, Feedback, Win-stay-lose-shift, information board paradigm

Received: 05 Jul 2017; Accepted: 05 Feb 2018.

Edited by:

Emily Mather, University of Hull, United Kingdom

Reviewed by:

Sammy Perone, Washington State University, United States
Nigel Harvey, University College London, United Kingdom  

Copyright: © 2018 Lang and Betsch. 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 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: Ms. Anna Lang, University of Erfurt, Erfurt, Germany, anna.lang@uni-erfurt.de