Worth working for: The influence of effort costs on teens’ choices during a novel decision making game

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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). Self-reported reward responsivity correlated with task-related parameter estimates for effort and reward, providing evidence of task validity. 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.




Sullivan-Toole, H., DePasque, S., Holt-Gosselin, B., & Galván, A. (2019). Worth working for: The influence of effort costs on teens’ choices during a novel decision making game. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 37. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcn.2019.100652

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