One classic example of context-independent violations is the asymmetrically dominated decoy effect, in which adding a decoy option (inferior option) to a set of original options often increases the individual's preference for one option over the other original option. Despite the prevalence of this effect, little is known about its developmental origins. Moreover, it remains contentious whether the decoy effect is a result of biological evolution or is learned from social experience. Here, we investigated the decoy effect in 3-to 7-year-old children (n = 175) and young adults (n = 52) using a simple perceptual task. Results showed that older children (5-year-olds and 7-year-olds), but not younger children (3-year-olds), exhibited a decoy effect. Nevertheless, children as young as age 5 exhibited a decoy effect that was not significantly different from that shown by young adults. These findings suggest that humans start to appreciate the relative values of options at around age 5.
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