Charting the expansion of strategic exploratory behavior during adolescence

Leah H. Somerville, Stephanie F. Sasse, Megan C. Garrad, Andrew T. Drysdale, Nadine Abi Akar, Catherine Insel, Robert C. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Although models of exploratory decision making implicate a suite of strategies that guide the pursuit ofinformation, the developmental emergence of these strategies remains poorly understood. This studytakes an interdisciplinary perspective, merging computational decision making and developmentalapproaches to characterize age-related shifts in exploratory strategy from adolescence to young adulthood.Participants were 149 12-28-year-olds who completed a computational explore- exploit paradigmthat manipulated reward value, information value, and decision horizon (i.e., the utility that informationholds for future choices). Strategic directed exploration, defined as information seeking selective for longtime horizons, emerged during adolescence and maintained its level through early adulthood. This agedifference was partially driven by adolescents valuing immediate reward over new information. Strategicrandom exploration, defined as stochastic choice behavior selective for long time horizons, was invokedat comparable levels over the age range, and predicted individual differences in attitudes toward risktaking in daily life within the adolescent portion of the sample. Collectively, these findings reveal anexpansion of the diversity of strategic exploration over development, implicate distinct mechanisms fordirected and random exploratory strategies, and suggest novel mechanisms for adolescent-typical shiftsin decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-164
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescence
  • Decision making
  • Development
  • Exploration
  • Reward

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Developmental Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Charting the expansion of strategic exploratory behavior during adolescence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this