In three experiments involving children and adults (N = 324), option payoffs for sure versus risky choices were either described or experienced via observation of 20 outcomes. Choices revealed a description-experience gap for payoffs with rare events, implying greater impact of small probabilities (≤.2) for described than for experienced choices. The size of this effect was independent of participant age. Therefore, the role of cognitive limitations in the description-experience distinction remains unclear, as the age groups would have differed in cognitive capacity. Age-related differences in 'sampling style' in decisions from experience were observed. Pre-choice data acquisition changed markedly with age: From frequent alternation between options towards separate systematic exploration of options with increasing age. A fourth experiment, that manipulated sampling style, failed to demonstrate its link to other age-related features of choice (e.g. risk preferences). Our studies illustrate the value of developmental research for testing theoretical claims and revealing novel phenomena in decision research.
- Decisions from experience
- Description versus experience
- Information acquisition
- Risky choice
- Sequence-order effects