DURHAM, N.C. (CBS Atlanta) – “What’s the matter with kids today” goes the song from “Bye Bye Birdie,” and many parents of teens have often said the same thing.
But teenagers may not deserve such scorn.
Researchers presented participants with three financial scenarios and asked them to pick the best one. Each scenario consisted of several outcomes that would cause them to win or lose different amounts of money.
For example, a volunteer might be offered a scenario that gave them a one-third chance of winning $6, a one-third chance of winning $4, and a one-third chance of losing $4.
Young adults, those who averaged 22 years of age, often used simple rules to pick a scenario, picking the one that gave them a greater chance of winning, but ignoring the amounts of money being offered.
Adolescents from ages 10 to 16 approached each scenario differently, taking into account how much money was at stake and making decisions that minimized the chances for losing money.
“The new results point to the idea that we should not think of adolescents as being irrational,” said study author Scott Huettel. “What’s different about them is they don’t use simple rules as effectively.”
The researchers also tracked eye movements during the trial. That showed that adolescents looked at all the options before making a decision.
Young adults looked at almost everything initially, according to the study, but after a while they started to ignore information that wasn’t useful to them. They also spent less time looking at each outcome.
“I was surprised by how consistent the effects were,” Huettel explained. “Pretty much everywhere we looked, adolescents were the ones who looked more economically rational.”
The study is published in the journal Cognitive Development.