Developmental perspectives on risky and impulsive choice

Gail M. Rosenbaum, Catherine A. Hartley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Epidemiological data suggest that risk taking in the real world increases from childhood into adolescence and declines into adulthood. However, developmental patterns of behaviour in laboratory assays of risk taking and impulsive choice are inconsistent. In this article, we review a growing literature using behavioural economic approaches to understand developmental changes in risk taking and impulsivity. We present findings that have begun to elucidate both the cognitive and neural processes that contribute to risky and impulsive choice, as well as how age-related changes in these neurocognitive processes give rise to shifts in choice behaviour. We highlight how variability in task parameters can be used to identify specific aspects of decision contexts that may differentially influence risky and impulsive choice behaviour across development. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Risk taking and impulsive behaviour: fundamental discoveries, theoretical perspectives and clinical implications’.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20180133
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1766
StatePublished - 2019


  • behavioural economics
  • development
  • impulsivity
  • risk taking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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