A new study has found that, in a way, the older you get the worse your decision-making becomes.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada, found 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. While this is more efficient, it can also lead to mistakes, the researchers said.
“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,” said Dr. Stephanie Denison, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology, who co-authored the study with Ph.D. student Samantha Gualtieri.
“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 4 years old are starting to use these shortcuts, but by 6 years of age they’re using them at levels as high as adults,” she continued.
In two experiments, 288 children were assessed to determine whether they used numerical, social, or both types of information when making judgments.
The study found that 95 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 study found.
The researchers say the older children’s overuse of social information isn’t a negative, it simply shows how children weigh information when making decisions.
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, the researchers added.
“So, while using these shortcuts is actually very efficient, we need to be aware that they can introduce errors,” said Denison. “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,” she added. “So, thinking about where you want to spend the time is really important.”
The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.
Source: University of Waterloo