Studies of reward effects on behavior in adolescence typically rely on performance metrics that confound myriad cognitive and non-cognitive processes, making it challenging to determine which process is impacted by reward. The present longitudinal study applied the diffusion decision model to a reward task to isolate the influence of reward on response caution from influences of processing and motor speed. Participants completed three annual assessments from early to middle adolescence (N = 387, 55% female, Mage= 12.1 at Wave 1; Mage= 13.1 at Wave 2, Mage= 14.1 at Wave 3) and three annual assessments in late adolescence (Mages= 17.8, 18.9, 19.9). At each assessment, participants completed a two-choice reaction time task under conditions of no-reward and a block in which points were awarded for speeded accuracy. Reward reduced response caution at all waves, as expected, but had a greater impact as teens moved from early to middle adolescence. Simulations to identify optimal response caution showed that teens were overly cautious in early adolescence but became too focused on speed over accuracy by middle adolescence. By late adolescence, participants adopted response styles that maximized reward. Further, response style was associated with both internalizing and externalizing symptoms in early-to-middle adolescence, providing evidence for the construct validity of a diffusion model approach in this developmental period.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience