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Our ability to make random, “creative” choices peaks at 25

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Our ability to make random choices, which are tied to bursts of creativity, peaks at the age of 25, researchers report in a new study.

Why it matters: Random decision-making is a hallmark of human cognition. Scientists have known that our ability to make choices or behave without an apparent method diminishes with age but they don't know when that capacity peaks, which may inform our understanding of Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases.

The details: 3,400 people aged 4 to 91 years old completed a series of online tasks that asked them to create random patterns and sequences:

  1. Participants chose hypothetical results for 12 coin flips.
  2. Five cards were presented and people in the study chose which one they thought would be at the top of the deck. They did this 10 times.
  3. People taking part were instructed to imagine rolling one die 10 times and to click on a number between one and six as randomly as possible so that if another person is shown the sequence, he or she wouldn't be able to tell whether numbers were produced by actually rolling a die or made up by somebody.
  4. They clicked 10 times in a random fashion on nine dots.
  5. Participants were instructed to make a random pattern with 9 in a grid.

Using an algorithm that ranked randomness and controlling for characteristics like gender, language and education levels, the researchers found the ability to act randomly peaked at age 25, on average, and declined from there.