Are Young Children Adaptive Decision Makers? A Study of Age Differences in Information Search Behavior

  • Gregan-Paxton J
  • John D
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How adaptive are young children as decision makers? Although similar questions have been raised frequently with regard to adult consumers, very little attention has been paid to the nature of consumer decision-making abilities in young children. The purpose of this article is to explore the emergence of adaptivity in young children's decision-making skills in the context of predecisional search behavior. This article specifically examines the extent to which young children are capable of adapting their search behavior to differing levels of search costs and benefits in the decision environment. We report results from two experiments, conducted with children aged four to seven years, in which we examined children's search activity in the context of a game called "house of prizes." The game involved making a choice between two "houses" that contained prizes hidden behind each "window." Children were allowed to search behind the windows to uncover the prizes prior to making their choices, with differing costs and benefits of doing so Data regarding the extent of search conducted by children of different ages suggest that the ability to adapt emerges during the preschool years in a limited fashion and develops rapidly thereafter. CR - Copyright © 1995 Journal of Consumer Research, Inc.

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  • Jennifer Gregan-Paxton

  • Deborah Roedder John

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