Multi-Round Trust Game Quantifies Inter-Individual Differences in Social Exchange from Adolescence to Adulthood.
Investing in strangers in a socio-economic exchange is risky, as we may be uncertain whether they will reciprocate. Nevertheless, the potential rewards for cooperating can be great. Here, we used a cross sectional sample (n = 784) to study how the challenges of cooperation versus defection are negotiated across an important period of the lifespan: from adolescence to young adulthood (ages 14 to 25). We quantified social behaviour using a multi round investor-trustee task, phenotyping individuals using a validated model whose parameters characterise patterns of real exchange and constitute latent social characteristics. We found highly significant differences in investment behaviour according to age, sex, socio-economic status and IQ. Consistent with the literature, we showed an overall trend towards higher trust from adolescence to young adulthood but, in a novel finding, we characterized key cognitive mechanisms explaining this, especially regarding socio-economic risk aversion. Males showed lower risk-aversion, associated with greater investments. We also found that inequality aversion was higher in females and, in a novel relation, that socio-economic deprivation was associated with more risk averse play.
Medical Research Council (MC_G0802534)