Focused Review ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 06 September 2012 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00313

From risk-seeking to risk-averse: the development of economic risk preference from childhood to adulthood

  • 1 Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA
  • 2 Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA
  • 3 Center for Interdisciplinary Decision Sciences, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA
  • 4 Department of Neurobiology, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA
  • 5 Brain Imaging and Analysis Center, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA

Adolescence is often described as a period of heightened risk-taking. Adolescents are notorious for impulsivity, emotional volatility, and risky behaviors such as drinking and driving under the influence of alcohol. By contrast, we found that risk-taking declines linearly from childhood to adulthood when individuals make choices over monetary gambles. Further, with age we found increases in the sensitivity to economic risk, defined as the degree to which a preference for assured monetary gains over a risky payoff depends upon the variability in the risky payoff. These findings indicate that decisions about economic risk may follow a different developmental trajectory than other kinds of risk-taking, and that changes in sensitivity to risk may be a major factor in the development of mature risk aversion.

Keywords: risk, decision-making, gambling, child development, risk preference

Citation: Paulsen DJ, Platt ML, Huettel SA and Brannon EM (2012) From risk-seeking to risk-averse: the development of economic risk preference from childhood to adulthood. Front. Psychology 3:313. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00313

Received: 22 June 2012; Accepted: 07 August 2012;
Published online: 07 September 2012.

Edited by:

Steven E. Mock, University of Waterloo, Canada

Reviewed by:

Irwin Levin, University of Iowa, USA
Stephanie Burnett Heyes, University of Oxford, UK

Copyright: © 2012 Paulsen, Platt, Huettel and Brannon. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: david.paulsen@duke.edu

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