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. 2020 Mar 25.
doi: 10.3758/s13421-020-01030-8. Online ahead of print.

Developmental Change in Partition Dependent Resource Allocation Behavior


Developmental Change in Partition Dependent Resource Allocation Behavior

Katherine Williams et al. Mem Cognit. .


Partition dependence, the tendency to distribute choices differently based on the way options are grouped, has important implications for decision making. This phenomenon, observed in adults across a variety of contexts such as allocating resources or making selections from a menu of items, can bias decision makers toward some choices and away from others. Only one study to date (Reichelson, Zax, Patalano, & Barth, Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 72, 1029-1036, 2019) has investigated the developmental trajectory of this phenomenon. In the current study we investigate children's and adults' susceptibility to partitioning effects in a child-friendly resource allocation task. In Experiment 1 (N = 80), adults distributed 12 food tokens to animals at the zoo. Based on previous findings that older children show weaker partition dependence in this task, we predicted that adults might exhibit reduced partition dependent behavior: they showed none. In Experiment 2 (N = 272), we used a less transparent task with only five food tokens, predicting that both adults and children (ages 3-10 years) would show partition dependence. Children, but not adults, made partition dependent resource allocations, with younger children exhibiting greater effects than older children. These experiments provide further evidence that children's decisions, like adults' (in other tasks), are influenced by the arbitrary partitioning of the available options. This work supports previous findings that younger children may be more susceptible to these effects, and maps developmental change in partition dependent behavior from early childhood to adulthood on this child-friendly partition dependence task.

Keywords: Cognitive development; Decision making; Partition dependence; Resource allocation.

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