Decision Making: The role of self-control in different age groups under time-ambiguous circumstances

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This study examined the effect of age and time-ambiguity on the choices of participants in an intertemporal choice task. We hypothesized that self-control was an underlying factor that would affect both variables. Earlier findings suggest that self-control increases with age. Therefore, adolescent participants should be less likely to delay rewards than adults. Furthermore, all participants should be less likely to choose the LL if time-ambiguity is involved, since research found that it is less likely that people choose a delayed reward when they do not know when they will obtain the reward. If people are able to delay the reward in such an ambiguous situation this could indicate a higher self-control. Since adolescents have lower self-control capacities, we hypothesized that adolescents are even less likely to delay a reward under time-ambiguous circumstances. To test these hypotheses an intertemporal choice task in which people had to choose between a smaller, sooner reward and a later, larger reward was implemented. The smaller, sooner reward was not delayed. The LL was either delayed to a specified point in the future, indicated by a red stripe on a timeline or delayed to a not exactly specified point in the future. In that case, the timing on the timeline was covered, making the trial time-ambiguous. We found main-effects of age, as well as for time-ambiguity, but no interaction between the two variables was found. The implications of these findings are discussed.
Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen