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Developmental changes and individual differences in risk and perspective taking in adolescence

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 October 2008

Eveline A. Crone
Affiliation:
Leiden University Institute for Psychological Research
L. Bullens
Affiliation:
Leiden University Institute for Psychological Research
E. A. A. van der Plas
Affiliation:
Leiden University Institute for Psychological Research
E. J. Kijkuit
Affiliation:
Leiden University Institute for Psychological Research
P. D. Zelazo
Affiliation:
University of Minnesota
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

Despite the assumed prevalence of risk-taking behavior in adolescence, the laboratory evidence of risk taking remains scarce, and the individual variation poorly understood. Drawing from neuroscience studies, we tested whether risk and reward orientation are influenced by the perspective that adolescents take when making risky decisions. Perspective taking was manipulated by cuing participants prior to each choice whether the decision was made for “self,” or from the perspective of an “other” (the experimenter in Experiment 1; a hypothetical peer in Experiment 2). In Experiment 1, we show a developmental decrease in risk-taking behavior across different stages of adolescence. In addition, all age groups made fewer risky choices for the experimenter, but the difference between self and other was larger in early adolescence. In Experiment 2, we show that high sensation-seeking (SS) adolescents make more risky choices than low SS adolescents, but both groups make a similar differentiation for other individuals (low risk-taking or high risk-taking peers). Together, the results show that younger adolescents and high SS adolescents make more risky choices for themselves, but can appreciate that others may make fewer risky choices. The developmental change toward more rational decisions versus emotional, impulsive decisions may reflect, in part, more efficient integration of others’ perspectives into one's decision making. These developmental results are discussed regarding brain systems important for risk taking and perspective taking.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2008

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Footnotes

The authors thank Linda van Leijenhorst for assistance and helpful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript and Egbert Hartstra and Kiki Zanolie for programming the experimental tasks.

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