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.
Partition dependence in development: Are children's decisions shaped by the arbitrary grouping of options?Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2019 May;72(5):1029-1036. doi: 10.1177/1747021818777720. Epub 2018 Jun 10. Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2019. PMID: 29741454
Partition dependence in consumer choice: Perceptual groupings do not reliably shape decisions.Psychon Bull Rev. 2018 Jun;25(3):1178-1183. doi: 10.3758/s13423-017-1326-4. Psychon Bull Rev. 2018. PMID: 28600715
How subjective grouping of options influences choice and allocation: diversification bias and the phenomenon of partition dependence.J Exp Psychol Gen. 2005 Nov;134(4):538-51. doi: 10.1037/0096-3422.214.171.1248. J Exp Psychol Gen. 2005. PMID: 16316290
The developmental origins of naïve psychology in infancy.Adv Child Dev Behav. 2009;37:55-104. doi: 10.1016/s0065-2407(09)03702-1. Adv Child Dev Behav. 2009. PMID: 19673160 Review.
What have we learned about the processes involved in the Iowa Gambling Task from developmental studies?Front Psychol. 2014 Aug 20;5:915. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00915. eCollection 2014. Front Psychol. 2014. PMID: 25191295 Free PMC article. Review.