A new study from the University of Waterloo has found that in some ways, the older you get, the worse your decision-making becomes. The study established that younger children seem to make slightly better decisions than older children. The older children get, the more they tend to ignore some of the information available to them when making judgments, which though efficient can also lead to mistakes.
Stephanie Denison, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology, who co-authored the study with Ph.D. student Samantha Gualtieri, said:
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“It is good for us to know that kids at different ages don’t necessarily treat all information similarly when we set out to teach them new things.
“Children maybe aren’t taking all the information we are giving them at face value. They may be thinking about it in their own way and using the data in the way they think makes the most sense, which is important for parents and teachers to understand.
“Our research shows that children around four-years-old are starting to use these shortcuts, but by six-years of age they’re using them at levels as high as adults.”
Younger children use both numerical and social information to make decisions
In two experiments, 288 children were assessed to determine whether they used numerical, social, or both types of information when making decisions. Ninety-five percent of the 6-year-olds depended on only the social information to make a judgment compared to 70 percent of 5-year-olds and 45 percent of 4-year-olds. The younger children were more likely to take both pieces of information into account.
The researchers do not deem older children’s overuse of social as negative, it simply shows how children weigh information when making decisions. Younger children tend to draw from more information in making decision. Adults also tend to not use all the information at their disposal when making judgments, possibly because it is time-consuming and requires lots of mental energy. Denison said:
“So, while using these shortcuts is actually very efficient, we need to be aware that they can introduce errors.
“Therefore, sometimes we should be thinking harder and taking the time to put together all of the information.
“How much time you spend on processing information might depend on the importance of the judgment or the decision you’re making. So, thinking about where you want to spend the time is really important.”
The study The development of the representativeness heuristic in young children was published recently in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.
Provided by: University of Waterloo [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]