The Rational Adolescent: Strategic Information Processing during Decision Making Revealed by Eye Tracking.

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Adolescence is often viewed as a time of irrational, risky decision-making - despite adolescents' competence in other cognitive domains. In this study, we examined the strategies used by adolescents (N=30) and young adults (N=47) to resolve complex, multi-outcome economic gambles. Compared to adults, adolescents were more likely to make conservative, loss-minimizing choices consistent with economic models. Eye-tracking data showed that prior to decisions, adolescents acquired more information in a more thorough manner; that is, they engaged in a more analytic processing strategy indicative of trade-offs between decision variables. In contrast, young adults' decisions were more consistent with heuristics that simplified the decision problem, at the expense of analytic precision. Collectively, these results demonstrate a counter-intuitive developmental transition in economic decision making: adolescents' decisions are more consistent with rational-choice models, while young adults more readily engage task-appropriate heuristics.





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Kwak, Y, JW Payne, AL Cohen and SA Huettel (2015). The Rational Adolescent: Strategic Information Processing during Decision Making Revealed by Eye Tracking. Cogn Dev, 36. pp. 20–30. 10.1016/j.cogdev.2015.08.001 Retrieved from

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John W. Payne

Joseph J. Ruvane, Jr. Distinguished Professor Emeritus

John W. Payne is the Joseph J. Ruvane Professor Emeritus of Business Administration at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University. He also had appointments as a Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and as a Professor of Law at Duke University.

His education includes a B.A. 1969, M.A. 1972, Ph.D. 1973 in Psychology from the University of California, Irvine. He held a position as a postdoctoral fellow in Cognitive Psychology at Carnegie-Mellon University, 1973-74.

Professor Payne’s research deals with how people make decisions, and how decision making might be improved. His particular subfield of interest is decision-making under risk. He has authored or edited four books, including The Adaptive Decision Maker, and more than a 100 additional journal articles and book chapters.

He teaches courses on management and decision making.

Among his honors, Professor Payne has been elected President of the Judgment and Decision Society. He has won the Leo Melamed Prize for scholarship at the University of Chicago, for the most significant research by business school faculty. He was awarded the first JCR award for long-term contribution to consumer research He has been selected as a Fellow, American Psychological Association, 2007, and a Fellow, American Psychological Society, 1995.


Scott Huettel

Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience

Research in my laboratory investigates the brain mechanisms underlying economic and social decision making; collectively, this research falls into the field of “decision neuroscience” or "neuroeconomics". My laboratory uses fMRI to probe brain function, behavioral assays to characterize individual differences, and other physiological methods (e.g., eye tracking, pharmacological manipulation, genetics) to link brain and behavior. Concurrent with research on basic processes, my laboratory has also investigated the application of new analysis methods for fMRI data, including functional connectivity analyses, pattern classification analyses, and combinatoric multivariate approaches. We have also been applying computational methods to problems in behavioral economics and consumer decision making.  

I have also been very active in outreach, mentorship, and educational activities; as examples, I am lead author on the textbook Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (Sinauer Associates; 3rd edition in 2014), I teach Fundamentals of Decision Science, Decision Neuroscience and Neuroethics, and many of my postdoctoral and graduate trainees now lead research laboratories of their own.

Unless otherwise indicated, scholarly articles published by Duke faculty members are made available here with a CC-BY-NC (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial) license, as enabled by the Duke Open Access Policy. If you wish to use the materials in ways not already permitted under CC-BY-NC, please consult the copyright owner. Other materials are made available here through the author’s grant of a non-exclusive license to make their work openly accessible.