Novelty and uncertainty differentially drive exploration across development

Kate Nussenbaum, Rebecca E. Martin, Sean Maulhardt, Yi Jen Yang, Greer Bizzell-Hatcher, Naiti S. Bhatt, Maximilian Koenig, Gail M. Rosenbaum, John P. O'doherty, Jeffrey Cockburn, Catherine A. Hartley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Across the lifespan, individuals frequently choose between exploiting known rewarding options or exploring unknown alternatives. A large body of work has suggested that children may explore more than adults. However, because novelty and reward uncertainty are often correlated, it is unclear how they differentially influence decision-making across development. Here, children, adolescents, and adults (ages 8–27 years, N = 122) completed an adapted version of a recently developed value-guided decision-making task that decouples novelty and uncertainty. In line with prior studies, we found that exploration decreased with increasing age. Critically, participants of all ages demonstrated a similar bias to select choice options with greater novelty, whereas aversion to reward uncertainty increased into adulthood. Computational modeling of participant choices revealed that whereas adolescents and adults demonstrated attenuated uncertainty aversion for more novel choice options, children’s choices were not influenced by reward uncertainty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere84260
StatePublished - 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Neuroscience


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