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Front Psychol. 2015 Jan 5;5:1519. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01519. eCollection 2014.

Children do not exhibit ambiguity aversion despite intact familiarity bias.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University Durham, NC, USA ; Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University Durham, NC, USA.
2
Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University Durham, NC, USA ; Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University Durham, NC, USA ; Center for Interdisciplinary Decision Sciences, Duke University Durham, NC, USA.
3
Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University Durham, NC, USA ; Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University Durham, NC, USA ; Center for Interdisciplinary Decision Sciences, Duke University Durham, NC, USA ; Brain Imaging and Analysis Center, Duke University Durham, NC, USA.

Abstract

The phenomenon of ambiguity aversion, in which risky gambles with known probabilities are preferred over ambiguous gambles with unknown probabilities, has been thoroughly documented in adults but never measured in children. Here, we use two distinct tasks to investigate ambiguity preferences of children (8- to 9-year-olds) and a comparison group of adults (19- to 27-year-olds). Across three separate measures, we found evidence for significant ambiguity aversion in adults but not in children and for greater ambiguity aversion in adults compared to children. As ambiguity aversion in adults has been theorized to result from a preference to bet on the known and avoid the unfamiliar, we separately measured familiarity bias and found that children, like adults, are biased towards the familiar. Our findings indicate that ambiguity aversion emerges across the course of development between childhood and adolescence, while a familiarity bias is already present in childhood.

KEYWORDS:

ambiguity; ambiguity aversion; children; decision-making; development; familiarity bias; risk; uncertainty

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