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Human ability to make random decisions is strongest aged 25, study says

The Independent logo The Independent 20/04/2017 Olivia Blair

© The Independent Sometimes dubbed the age of the ‘quarter life crisis’, 25 is the age we are most likely to make random, spur-of-the-moment decisions, a study has suggested. Whether those two things are related is yet to be studied.

A new study by French researchers published in the Plos journal of computational biology found that the peak age a person can successfully make a random decision is 25, also making it the age human behavioural complexity peaks.

The research surveyed more than 3,400 people between the ages of four and 91-years-old. Participants were asked to perform a series of online tasks which assessed their ability to behave randomly such as guessing which card would appear from a randomly shuffled deck and listing the hypothetical results of 10 rolls of a dice and creating a series of coin tosses they believed would look random to another person.

Researchers then analysed the participants’ choices according to their “algorithmic randomness”. After controlling gender, language and education they found age was the only factor which affected the ability of participants to make random decisions.

The random choices the participants made were then compared to the occurrence of what computers produced according to a theory of algorithmic probability suggesting that a 25-year-old was also the best age to try and outsmart a computer.

“Our main finding is that the developmental curve of the estimated algorithmic complexity of responses is similar to what may be expected of a measure of higher cognitive abilities, with a performance peak around 25 and a decline starting around 60, suggesting that RIG (Random Item Generation) tasks yield good estimates of such cognitive abilities,” researchers wrote.

© The Independent One of the study’s authors Hector Zenil told Scientific American the study meant that at “age 25, people can outsmart computers at generating this kind of randomness”.

“It is around 25, then, that minds are the sharpest,” he told the publication.

The tasks performed required a sense of randomness, complexity, attention, inhibition and a working memory.

The tasks performed required a sense of randomness, complexity, attention, inhibition and a working memory, according to researchers. The study also might provide a new way to understand how age relates to human creativity as Zenil suggested that the ability to make random choice means drawing on “a larger repository of diversity… so at 25, people have more resources to behave creatively”.

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