The Royal Society

Supplementary material from "Developmental risk sensitivity theory: the effects of socio-economic status on children's risky gain and loss decisions"

Posted on 2022-09-15 - 18:56
Evolutionary developmental theories propose that early environments shape human risk preferences. Developmental Risk Sensitivity Theory (D-RST) focuses on the plasticity of risk preferences during childhood and makes predictions about the effect of reward size based on a child's social environment. By contrast, Prospect Theory predicts risk aversion for gains and risk seeking for losses regardless of environment or status. We presented 4 to 10-year-olds (n = 194) with a set of trials in which they chose between a certain amount and a chance to receive more or nothing. Two trials were equal expected value choices that differed by stake size and two were unequal expected value choices. Children either received Gain trials or Loss trials. Social environment was assessed using socio-economic status (SES) and subjective social status. Results confirmed the predictions of D-RST for Gains based on SES. Children from lower SES families differentiated between the high and low value trials and made more risky decisions for the high value reward compared with higher SES children. Children from higher SES families were more risk averse for both trial types. Decisions for Loss trials did not conform completely to either theory. We discuss the results in relation to evolutionary developmental theories.


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