Age and educational track influence adolescent discounting of delayed rewards

Nikki Lee*, Renate De Groot, Annemarie Boschloo, Sanne Dekker, Lydia Krabbendam, Jelle Jolles

*Corresponding author for this work

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    This study examined age-related changes in a specific aspect of adolescent decision- making, namely the preference for future versus immediate outcomes. A sample of 622 Dutch adolescents aged 12–17 years completed a temporal discounting task. Participants were asked to choose between a delayed reward of €50 or an immediate reward of lower value. The delay interval was varied in three blocks (1 week, 1 month, 6 months). Results showed that preferences for large delayed rewards over smaller immediate rewards increased with age: late adolescents made more long-term decisions than early adolescents. This change was related to educational track. In the lower educational track, an age-related decrease in discounting was found for all three delay intervals. In the higher educational track this decrease only occurred for the 6 month delay interval. However, across all delay intervals enrolment in a higher level educational track was associated with an increased preference for long-term rewards. These results suggest that late adolescents are less susceptible than early adolescents to the competing presence of an immediate reward when making long-term decisions, a skill which becomes increasingly important as they transition into adulthood.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number993
    Pages (from-to)1-8
    Number of pages8
    JournalFrontiers in Developmental Psychology
    Publication statusPublished - 26 Dec 2013


    • temporal discounting
    • adolescence
    • age
    • development
    • educational track


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