Optimal integration of positive and negative outcomes during learning varies depending on an environment's reward statistics. The present study investigated the extent to which children, adolescents, and adults (N = 142 8–25 year-olds, 55% female, 42% White, 31% Asian, 17% mixed race, and 8% Black; data collected in 2021) adapt their weighting of better-than-expected and worse-than-expected outcomes when learning from reinforcement. Participants made choices across two contexts: one in which weighting positive outcomes more heavily than negative outcomes led to better performance, and one in which the reverse was true. Reinforcement learning modeling revealed that across age, participants shifted their valence biases in accordance with environmental structure. Exploratory analyses revealed strengthening of context-dependent flexibility with increasing age.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Developmental and Educational Psychology