Nav: Home

25 is 'golden age' for the ability to make random choices

April 13, 2017

People's ability to make random choices or mimic a random process, such as coming up with hypothetical results for a series of coin flips, peaks around age 25, according to a study published in PLOS Computational Biology.

Scientists believe that the ability to behave in a way that appears random arises from some of the most highly developed cognitive processes in humans, and may be connected to abilities such as human creativity. Previous studies have shown that aging diminishes a person's ability to behave randomly. However, it had been unclear how this ability evolves over a person's lifetime, nor had it been possible to assess the ways in which humans may behave randomly beyond simple statistical tests.

To better understand how age impacts random behavior, Nicolas Gauvrit and colleagues at the Algorithmic Nature Group, LABORES for the Natural and Digital Sciences, Paris, assessed more than 3,400 people aged 4 to 91 years old. Each participant performed a series of online tasks that assessed their ability to behave randomly.

The five tasks included listing the hypothetical results of a series of 12 coin flips so that they would "look random to somebody else," guessing which card would appear when selected from a randomly shuffled deck, and listing the hypothetical results of 10 rolls of a die--"the kind of sequence you'd get if you really rolled a die."

The scientists analyzed the participants' choices according to their algorithmic randomness, which is based on the idea that patterns that are more random are harder to summarize mathematically. After controlling for characteristics such as gender, language, and education, they found that age was the only factor that affected the ability to behave randomly. This ability peaked at age 25, on average, and declined from then on.

"This experiment is a kind of reverse Turing test for random behavior, a test of strength between algorithms and humans," says study co-author Hector Zenil. "25 is, on average, the golden age when humans best outsmart computers," adds Dr. Gauvrit.

The study also demonstrated that a relatively short list of choices, say 10 hypothetical coin flips, can be used to reliably gauge randomness of human behavior. The authors are now using a similar approach to study potential connections between the ability to behave randomly and such things as cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases.
-end-
The authors have produced a video to summarize the key results of their research, which can be found, with a caption and further details, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-YjBE5qm7c

In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available article in PLOS Computational Biology: http://journals.plos.org/ploscompbiol/article?id=10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005408

Citation: Gauvrit N, Zenil H, Soler-Toscano F, Delahaye J-P, Brugger P (2017) Human behavioral complexity peaks at age 25. PLoS Comput Biol 13(4): e1005408. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005408

Funding: HZ received partial funding the Swedish Research Council (VR). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

PLOS

Related Choices Articles:

Adults with autism make more consistent choices
People with autism spectrum conditions (ASC) often show a reduced sensitivity to contextual information in perceptual tasks, but new research suggests that this reduced sensitivity may actually lead to more consistent choices in high-level decision-making tasks.
25 is 'golden age' for the ability to make random choices
People's ability to make random choices or mimic a random process, such as coming up with hypothetical results for a series of coin flips, peaks around age 25, according to a study published in PLOS Computational Biology.
How birthplace and education influence marriage choices in China
Many people choose their spouse based on shared values and interests.
By age 6, gender stereotypes can affect girls' choices
A new study in the journal Science finds that the societal stereotype that associates intellectual talent more closely with men than women affects the choices made by girls as young as 6 years old.
When it comes to mating, fruit flies can make rational choices
In a paper published Jan. 17 in the journal Nature Communications, University of Washington researchers report that fruit flies -- perhaps the most widely studied insect in history -- show signs of rational decision-making when choosing a mate.
Fear of gaining weight may influence contraception choices
Concerns about weight gain may be driving contraception choices, according to Penn State College of Medicine researchers.
Identity beats policy when it comes to voter choices
Two motivations -- your policy positions and your social identity -- compete to shape which candidate you choose and whether you will vote, according to a new set of predictions by Duke University scientists.
Women at risk of ovarian cancer need more guidance from doctors on their choices
Researchers at Cardiff University have found that online information about ovarian cancer can cause as much worry as comfort for women at high risk of developing the disease, in a new study published in ecancer.
The use of non-fit messaging may improve patient choices
When it comes to helping patients make the best choices for themselves, sometimes you have to challenge their usual way of dealing with the world, according to new research published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.
Our brain activity could be nudged to make healthier choices
Netflix binge-watching versus a hike in the woods. A cheeseburger versus kale salad.

Related Choices Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...