Developmental trajectory of social influence integration into perceptual decisions in children.
Large I., Pellicano E., Mojzisch A., Krug K.
The opinions of others have a profound influence on decision making in adults. The impact of social influence appears to change during childhood, but the underlying mechanisms and their development remain unclear. We tested 125 neurotypical children between the ages of 6 and 14 years on a perceptual decision task about 3D-motion figures under informational social influence. In these children, a systematic bias in favor of the response of another person emerged at around 12 years of age, regardless of whether the other person was an age-matched peer or an adult. Drift diffusion modeling indicated that this social influence effect in neurotypical children was due to changes in the integration of sensory information, rather than solely a change in decision behavior. When we tested a smaller cohort of 30 age- and IQ-matched autistic children on the same task, we found some early decision bias to social influence, but no evidence for the development of systematic integration of social influence into sensory processing for any age group. Our results suggest that by the early teens, typical neurodevelopment allows social influence to systematically bias perceptual processes in a visual task previously linked to the dorsal visual stream. That the same bias did not appear to emerge in autistic adolescents in this study may explain some of their difficulties in social interactions.