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Durham University

Psychology

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Publication details for Professor Marko Nardini

Jones, P.R., Landin, L., McLean, A., Juni, M.Z., Maloney, L.T., Nardini, M. & Dekker, T.M. (2019). Efficient visual information sampling develops late in childhood. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 148(7): 1138-1152.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

It is often unclear which course of action gives the best outcome. We can reduce this uncertainty by gathering more information; but gathering information always comes at a cost. For example, a sports player waiting too long to judge a ball’s trajectory will run out of time to intercept it. Efficient samplers must therefore optimize a trade-off: when the costs of collecting further information exceed the expected benefits, they should stop sampling and start acting. In visually guided tasks, adults can make these trade-offs efficiently, correctly balancing any reductions in visuomotor uncertainty against cost factors associated with increased sampling. To investigate how this ability develops during childhood, we tested 6-11 year-olds, adolescents, and adults on a visual localization task in which the costs and benefits of sampling were formalized in a quantitative framework. This allowed us to compare participants to each other, and to an ideal observer who maximizes expected reward. Visual sampling became substantially more efficient between 6-11 years, converging onto adult performance in adolescence. Younger children systematically under-sampled information relative to the ideal observer and varied their sampling strategy more. Further analyses suggested that young children used a suboptimal decision rule that insufficiently accounted for the chance of task failure, in line with a late developing ability to compute with probabilities and costs. We therefore propose that late development of efficient information sampling, a crucial element of real-world decision-making under risk, may form an important component of sub-optimality in child perception, action, and decision-making.

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