Decision making requires consideration of both the benefits of a given choice and the costs, which can include risk, delay, and effort. Previous research has examined the developmental trajectory of adolescent decision making regarding risk and delay; however, the effects of effort on adolescent decision making remain largely unexplored. In the present study, we pilot tested a novel, developmentally-appropriate task designed to examine developmental differences in the willingness to expend effort during goal pursuit in adolescents (ages 13–16, n = 23) versus young adults (ages 18–23, n = 25). Adolescents exhibited reduced sensitivity to physical effort costs compared to adults, effects which did not appear to be driven by differences in subjective task motivation or awareness of the effort requirements. These findings provide preliminary evidence that adolescence may be a time of increased willingness to expend effort during goal pursuit. Effort-based decision making is an understudied but exciting avenue for developmental research, as the willingness to engage in effortful pursuit of new experiences during adolescence may help to facilitate the path to independence.
tags: purpose & relevance
Humans make decisions across a variety of social contexts. Though social decision making research has blossomed in recent decades, surprisingly little is known about whether social decision making preferences are consistent across different domains. We conducted an exploratory study in which participants made choices about two types of close others, parents and friends. To elicit decision making preferences, we pit the interests in parents and friends against one another. To assess the consistency of social preferences for close others, decision making occurred in three domains—risk taking, probabilistic learning, and self-other similarity judgments. If social decision making preferences are consistent across domains, participants ought to exhibit the same preference in all three domains (i.e., a parent preference, based on prior work), and individual differences in preference magnitude ought to be conserved across domains within individuals. A combination of computational modeling, random coefficient regression, and traditional statistical tests indicated that parent-over-friend preferences were present in all three domains and that individual differences regarding the magnitude of this preference were consistent across domains. These results suggest that domain-specific social decision making preferences may rely on common, underlying psychological processes.