Children are notoriously fearless; running across slippery grass, eating bugs, and climbing to the top of trees while their anxious parents look on in fear. Research on risk-taking behavior in older children and adults suggests that as people get older, we tend to avoid risks more. But not much is known about risk-taking in preschoolers. It has been shown that both adults from lower SES background and adults with ADHD tend to make riskier decisions than other adults. Why is that? Does it arise in adulthood, or do children in similar circumstances also take more risks? How stable are individual differences in risk propensity throughout the preschool years? And what factors contribute to these individual differences?
My research aims to chart the development of risk-taking and decision making during the preschool years, while taking special note of individual differences. To do this, I implement a combination of behavioral and computational methods.
Sumner, E., DeAngelis, E., Hyatt, M., Goodman, N., & Kidd, C. (2015) Toddlers Always Get the Last Word: Recency biases in early verbal behavior. Proceedings of the 37th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. [PDF]
Sumner, E., Stokes, R., Mistry, PK., Jaeggi, S., & Sarnecka, BW. A freshly baked perspective on how we measure risk propensity. [In Prep, email for preprint]
Sumner, E., DeAngelis, E., Hyatt, M., Goodman, N., & Kidd, C. Toddlers Always Get the Last Word: Recency drives children's question answering. [Under review, email for preprint]
Sumner, E., Lomeli, A., Lee, M., & Sarnecka, BW. Too risky for you, but not for me: individual differences in preschooler's decision-making strategies [in prep]
Sumner, E., Harder, E., & Jaeggi, S. Delay Discounting: A measure of risk propensity or working memory? [in prep]
Sumner, E. (1999) My MRI. Published by Mass General Hospital for Children, over 10,000 copies distributed.
Child Risk Utility Measure
The Child Risk Utility Measure (CRUM) is a touchscreen application which enables us to assess individual differences in young children’s risk propensity. The CRUM respects the cognitive limitations of three- to six-year- old children. In this task, children try to help Cookie Monster take cookies from a cookie jar without Oscar waking up. However, the chances of Oscar waking up increase along with the number of cookies on the plate.
Developed with Ryan Stokes, Percy Mistry, Susanne Jaeggi, and Barbara Sarnecka
The game Shima was developed as part of the 2017 Virtual Reality BrainJam Hackathon during the 2017 Games for Change Festival. Shima is a virtual reality measure of risk propensity. In this game, you are a photographer on an island inhabited by new species of animals. Your goal is to get as close as you can to each animal and take their picture. The closer you get, the more points you get. But if you get too close, the animal gets scared and runs away. We look forward to collecting data with measure at the Brain Game Center at UC Riverside.
Developed with Roldan Melcon, Matt Cooper, Grace Lin, Helena Kent, Angel Lopez, Armando Somoza, Russell Cohen Hoffing, Aaron Seitz, and Susanne Jaeggi.
I grew up outside of Boston, MA. I completed my undergraduate education in Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester. I am a strong supporter of open science. Other than science, I enjoy running, hiking, baking, and folk music.