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Human behavioral complexity peaks at age 25

Overview of attention for article published in PLoS Computational Biology, April 2017
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Human behavioral complexity peaks at age 25
Published in
PLoS Computational Biology, April 2017
DOI 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005408
Pubmed ID

Nicolas Gauvrit, Hector Zenil, Fernando Soler-Toscano, Jean-Paul Delahaye, Peter Brugger


Random Item Generation tasks (RIG) are commonly used to assess high cognitive abilities such as inhibition or sustained attention. They also draw upon our approximate sense of complexity. A detrimental effect of aging on pseudo-random productions has been demonstrated for some tasks, but little is as yet known about the developmental curve of cognitive complexity over the lifespan. We investigate the complexity trajectory across the lifespan of human responses to five common RIG tasks, using a large sample (n = 3429). 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 tasks yield good estimates of such cognitive abilities. Our study illustrates that very short strings of, i.e., 10 items, are sufficient to have their complexity reliably estimated and to allow the documentation of an age-dependent decline in the approximate sense of complexity.

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Geographical breakdown

Country Count As %
United States 2 2%
Spain 1 <1%
Germany 1 <1%
Luxembourg 1 <1%
Unknown 109 96%

Demographic breakdown

Readers by professional status Count As %
Student > Ph. D. Student 22 19%
Researcher 18 16%
Student > Bachelor 11 10%
Student > Doctoral Student 10 9%
Other 10 9%
Other 32 28%
Unknown 11 10%
Readers by discipline Count As %
Psychology 19 17%
Computer Science 13 11%
Agricultural and Biological Sciences 13 11%
Neuroscience 12 11%
Social Sciences 8 7%
Other 30 26%
Unknown 19 17%