Deal or no deal: 5 year olds make smart decisions in games of risk

January 9, 2013

You may have to be over a certain age to be a contestant on "Deal or No Deal", but children as young as five start to maximize their profits - in cookies - when making decisions similar to those on the show, according to research published January 9 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Valerie Dufour and colleagues from the National Center for Scientific Research in France.

Children aged 3-9 were given a cookie and presented the option to either keep it or exchange it for one of 6 identical cups containing cookies. The cookies in the cups could be larger, smaller or equal in size to what they already had. The chances of winning a larger cookie were altered by presenting different combinations of cookie sizes in the cups (3 large, 2 equal and 1 small, for example). In each case, the children were told how many cups had a 'winning' cookie before they made their decision.

Three to four-year-olds could not distinguish between the profits to be had by choosing to exchange their cookie when the odds of winning were greater. Kids aged five and up were better at understanding the odds of winning, and their decisions were affected by chances of losing. They also framed their decisions in the context of previous wins or .

The researchers found that though children over the age of five were risk-seekers, they also exhibited an aversion to loss typically seen in adults. This aversion arises from a 'better safe than sorry' choice but can also lead to errors in adults, causing a loss of potential profits. The results of this study suggest that this is a decision-making pattern that we begin to learn as early as age five.

Explore further: Is the description-experience gap in risky choice limited to rare events?

More information: Steelandt S, Broihanne M-H, Romain A, Thierry B, Dufour V (2013) Decision-Making under Risk of Loss in Children. PLoS ONE 8(1): e52316. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052316

Related Stories

Is the description-experience gap in risky choice limited to rare events?

June 2, 2011
Psychology researchers at the University of Alberta have found an interesting wrinkle in the decision- making process people use when gambling: People confronted with risky choices respond differently when they rely on past ...

Recommended for you

New study rebuts the claim that antidepressants do not work

August 18, 2017
A theory that has gained considerable attention in international media, including Newsweek and the CBS broadcast 60 minutes, suggests that antidepressant drugs such as the SSRIs do not exert any actual antidepressant effect. ...

Should I stay or should I leave? Untangling what goes on when a relationship is being questioned

August 17, 2017
Knowing whether to stay in or leave a romantic relationship is often an agonizing experience and that ambivalence can have negative consequences for health and well-being.

Kids learn moral lessons more effectively from stories with humans than human-like animals

August 17, 2017
A study by researchers at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto found that four to six-year-olds shared more after listening to books with human characters than books with anthropomorphic ...

History of stress increases miscarriage risk, says new review

August 17, 2017
A history of exposure to psychological stress can increase the risk of miscarriage by upto 42 per cent, according to a new review.

Study finds children pay close attention to potentially threatening information, avoid eye contact when anxious

August 17, 2017
We spend a lot of time looking at the eyes of others for social cues – it helps us understand a person's emotions, and make decisions about how to respond to them. We also know that adults avoid eye contact when anxious. ...

Communicating in a foreign language takes emotion out of decision making

August 16, 2017
If you could save the lives of five people by pushing another bystander in front of a train to his death, would you do it? And should it make any difference if that choice is presented in a language you speak, but isn't your ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.