Human development of the ability to learn from bad news

Christina Moutsiana, Neil Garrett, Richard Clarke, Beau Lotto, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Tali Sharot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)


Humans show a natural tendency to discount bad news while in- corporating good news into beliefs (the “good news–bad news effect”), an effect that may help explain seemingly irrational risk taking. Understanding how this bias develops with age is impor- tant because adolescents are prone to engage in risky behavior; thus, educating them about danger is crucial. We reveal a striking valence-dependent asymmetry in how belief updating develops with age. In the ages tested (9–26 y), younger age was associated with inaccurate updating of beliefs in response to undesirable in- formation regarding vulnerability. In contrast, the ability to up- date beliefs accurately in response to desirable information remained relatively stable with age. This asymmetry was medi- ated by adequate computational use of positive but not negative estimation errors to alter beliefs. The results are important for understanding how belief formation develops and might help ex- plain why adolescents do not respond adequately to warnings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16396-16401
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS)
Publication statusPublished - 8 Oct 2013

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