Development of Decision Making in School-Aged Children and Adolescents: Evidence From Heart Rate and Skin Conductance Analysis


concerning this article should be addressed to Eveline A. Crone. Department of Psychology, Leiden University, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333AK, Leiden, The Netherlands. Electronic mail may be sent to


Age differences in decision making indicate that children fail to anticipate outcomes of their decisions. Using heart rate and skin conductance analyses, we tested whether developmental changes in decision making are associated with (a) a failure to process outcomes of decisions, or (b) a failure to anticipate future outcomes of decisions. Children aged 8-10, 12-14, and 16-18 years performed the Hungry Donkey task, a child version of the Iowa Gambling Task, while heart rate and skin conductance activity were continuously recorded. Children aged 16-18 learned to make advantageous choices over task blocks faster than the two younger age groups. Age differences were present for anticipation-related autonomic activity but not outcome-related autonomic activity. The results are interpreted vis-à-vis models of prefrontal cortex maturation.