Knowing When to Be "Rational": Flexible Economic Decision Making and Executive Function in Preschool Children

Wendy S.C. Lee, Stephanie M Carlson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Scopus citations

Abstract

Failure to delay gratification may not indicate poor control or irrationality, but might be an adaptive response. Two studies investigated 3.5- and 4.5-year-old children's ability to adapt their delay and saving behavior when their preference (e.g., to delay or not delay) became nonadaptive. In Study 1 (N = 140), children's delay preference was associated with a risk of losing rewards. In Study 2 (N = 142), children's saving preference was associated with an inability to play an attractive game. Whereas baseline delaying and saving preferences were unrelated to a standardized executive function measure, children who switched to their nonpreferred choice scored higher, suggesting flexibility of decision-making may be a more meaningful dependent variable than baseline performance in developmental research on self-control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1434-1448
Number of pages15
JournalChild development
Volume86
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015

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