You are on page 1of 35

The Effect of Age and Incentive on Memorization and

Pattern Recognition II: The Added Effect of Punishment

Eshana Patel

Niles North High School
Patel
2018

Table of Contents

Title Page Number

Table of Contents………………..…………………………...……………...……..………..…… 1

Acknowledgements…..………………………………………………………..……..……..……. 2

Purpose………………………………………………………………………………………….... 3

Hypotheses……………………………………………………...…....…………...…………..….. 4

Review of Literature………………………………………………....………..….…….…...…… 7

Materials……………………………………………………...…… …………………………... 12

Variables……………………………………………………...…….…..……………………..…

13

Procedure……………………………………………………………………..……….…..……. 15

Data………………….………………………………………………………………………….. 16

Data Analysis……………………………………………………………………………..…….. 20

Discussion………………………………………………………………………………..……... 23

Error Analysis……………………………………………………………………………..……. 28

Conclusion……………………………………………………………………………..……..… 29

Reference List………………………………………………………………………..……….… 32

1
Patel
2018

Acknowledgements

I would like to acknowledge and thank Ms. Camel for encouraging me and helping me

throughout the stages of my project. I would also like to thank my parents for their continuous

support throughout the entire process of my experiment.

2
Patel
2018

Purpose

The purpose of this experiment was to determine whether adolescents and adults perform

differently on pattern-based tests depending on the amount of incentive and punishment given.

3
Patel
2018

Hypotheses

I. If adolescents and adults are tested on pattern recognition using seven digital tests (1.

Test without any incentive or punishment, 2. Test with a digital incentive and no

punishment, 3. Test with a tangible incentive and no punishment, 4. Test with no digital

incentive and a digital punishment, 5. Test with no tangible incentive and a tangible

punishment, 6. Test with a digital incentive and a digital punishment, 7. Test with a

tangible incentive and a tangible punishment), then adolescents will have statistically

significant higher test scores on tests 2 and 3 compared to adults.

II. If adolescents and adults are tested on pattern recognition using seven digital tests (1.

Test without any incentive or punishment, 2. Test with a digital incentive and no

punishment, 3. Test with a tangible incentive and no punishment, 4. Test with no digital

incentive and a digital punishment, 5. Test with no tangible incentive and a tangible

punishment, 6. Test with a digital incentive and a digital punishment, 7. Test with a

tangible incentive and a tangible punishment), then adults will have statistically

significant higher test scores on tests 4 and 5 compared to adolescents.

III. If adolescents and adults are tested on pattern recognition using seven digital tests (1.

Test without any incentive or punishment, 2. Test with a digital incentive and no

punishment, 3. Test with a tangible incentive and no punishment, 4. Test with no digital

incentive and a digital punishment, 5. Test with no tangible incentive and a tangible

punishment, 6. Test with a digital incentive and a digital punishment, 7. Test with a

4
Patel
2018

tangible incentive and a tangible punishment), then adolescents and adults will

statistically have the same scores on tests 1, 6, and 7.

IV. If adolescents and adults are tested on pattern recognition using seven digital tests (1.

Test without any incentive or punishment, 2. Test with a digital incentive and no

punishment, 3. Test with a tangible incentive and no punishment, 4. Test with no digital

incentive and a digital punishment, 5. Test with no tangible incentive and a tangible

punishment, 6. Test with a digital incentive and a digital punishment, 7. Test with a

tangible incentive and a tangible punishment), then adults will have a higher average

score increase from Test 1 to Test 4 and from Test 4 to Test 5 compared to adolescents.

V. If adolescents and adults are tested on pattern recognition using seven digital tests (1.

Test without any incentive or punishment, 2. Test with a digital incentive and no

punishment, 3. Test with a tangible incentive and no punishment, 4. Test with no digital

incentive and a digital punishment, 5. Test with no tangible incentive and a tangible

punishment, 6. Test with a digital incentive and a digital punishment, 7. Test with a

tangible incentive and a tangible punishment), then adolescents will have a higher

average score increase from Test 1 to Test 2 and from Test 2 to Test 3 compared to

adolescents.

VI. If adolescents and adults are tested on pattern recognition using seven digital tests (1.

Test without any incentive or punishment, 2. Test with a digital incentive and no

punishment, 3. Test with a tangible incentive and no punishment, 4. Test with no digital

incentive and a digital punishment, 5. Test with no tangible incentive and a tangible

punishment, 6. Test with a digital incentive and a digital punishment, 7. Test with a

5
Patel
2018

tangible incentive and a tangible punishment), then adolescents and adults will have the

same or similar average score increase from Test 1 to Test 6 and from Test 6 to Test 7.

Based on previous research, adolescents perform better on pattern-recognition test with

the presence of incentive, whether digital or tangible. Since adults do not have the

hypersensitivity to rewards present in adolescents, as well as better decision-making skills, they

will better consider the effects of punishment on their outcome and therefore perform better with

the presence of punishment on tests. Adults will also learn at a quicker pace with the further

addition of punishment because they respond to punishment more than adolescents.

While both incentive and punishment are present, adolescents and adults will be affected

similarly and therefore perform similarly. This is because reward appeals more to adolescents

and punishment helps adults learn more than it does adolescents. When both parties are given

both reward and punishment, the outcome will be similar.

6
Patel
2018

Review of Literature

During adolescence, the brain’s reward-seeking center develops and is at its highest

potential. The striatum, which is the region in the brain implicated with reward-processing, is

hyperactive in adolescents, which results in a heightened response to awards (Galvan, 2010).

One study suggests that the reason adolescents are more likely to respond to rewards compared

to adults is that the striatum is especially sensitive during these crucial developmental years, and

can tap directly into a brain region that is critical for learning and habit formation (Nauert, 2015).

Contrarily, adults are proven to respond better to punishment in comparison to adolescents as

their fully developed striatum and hippocampus allow for better decision-making and

risk-assessing skills (Palminteri, 2016). Understanding the effect variations of rewards and

punishments can have on adults in comparison to adolescents in relation to memorizing and

learning content can result in more effective educational programs and therefore more successful

students.

During adolescence, the human brain is undergoing major developments that set the path

for their adulthood. This period of development in the brain lasts longer than adolescence,

usually until the age of 25 (Cox, 2011). A common result of this development is impulsive

behavior among adolescents and young adults. An area that is particularly important during this

stage is the cortex. The cortex, also known as the cerebrum, is the largest part of the brain. It is

divided into four sections, called “lobes.” They are called the frontal lobe, parietal lobe, occipital

7
Patel
2018

lobe, and temporal lobe. This majority of the brain is where most of thought, memory, and

perception of stimuli is based (Kinser, 2012). The amount of gray matter in the cortex increases

during early childhood and begins to decline during adolescence, which is a necessary part of

maturation. The increase in gray matter also means an increase in synapses at a young age, which

is then followed by a decrease in synapses as gray matter volume decreases. Synapses are how

neurons communicate with each other, creating the basis of productive circuitry in the brain (The

Teen Brain Still Under Reconstruction, 2011). The increase in synapses during adolescence is a

significant reason behind impulsive behaviour common among teenagers. One article states,

“Research during the past 10 years, powered by technology such as functional magnetic

resonance imaging, has revealed that young brains have both fast-growing synapses and sections

that remain unconnected. This leaves teens easily influenced by their environment and more

prone to impulsive behavior, even without the impact of souped-up hormones and any genetic or

family predispositions” (Ruder, 2008). The striatum, which is often considered to be the

“reward-center” of the brain, is directly related to the cortex. In previous experiments,

adolescents ages 13 to 17 have been seen to display increased activity in the striatum when

confronted with a risky decision and/or reward. While the development of the cortex is related to

impulsive behavior among teens, it is the striatum that fuels a desire to partake in that behavior.

Due to this, the striatum is at a heightened sensitivity during crucial developmental years

(Mascarelli, 2012).

Although the striatum is most commonly regarded as the reward-center of the human

brain, research reports slight differences in the striatum’s function between adolescents and

adults. In adolescents, the neural processing within the striatum was generally more associated

8
Patel
2018

with reward processing. In adults, the neural processing was generally more associated with

learning compared to reward processing. Adolescents, more so than adults, had a larger

proportion of neurons in the striatum that were sensitive and therefore responded better to the

anticipation of reward (Sturman & Moghaddam, 2012). The differences in sensitivity to

reward-seeking between adolescents and adults are evident in multiple areas, including social

situations. The research says, “These findings suggest that, during adolescence, peers influence

recruitment of reward-related regions even when they are engaged outside of the context of

risk-taking” (Smith, Steinberg, Strang, & Chein, 2014). When socially involved with peers,

adolescents have higher activity in their striatum compared to adults interacting with peers.

Adults’ striatal response to reward is not dependent on social context. Through these previous

studies, it is shown that the striatum’s sensitivity during adolescence not only acts as a catalyst

for impulsive behavior, but also is shown to display higher activity in social situations regarding

peers.

The hippocampus is a small region of the brain that is primarily associated with spatial

navigation and memory (Mandal, 2014). The striatum, however, is responsible for learning from

reward. The hippocampus and striatum work together to learn from award, especially in

adolescents when brain activity levels in these two regions are higher. In an experiment studying

adolescents’ and adults’ ability to memorize and recall neutral images shown during a

reward-based game, both adolescents and adults scored about equally. However, their aptitude

for memorization and learning were shown in different ways. Adolescents were more likely to

recall images shown when they were associated with a correct answer during the test compared

to adults (Ross, 2016). This study suggests that information associated with correctness or

9
Patel
2018

reward is more likely to be recalled later within a group of adolescents versus a group of adults.

The striatum’s sensitivity during adolescence aids in memorization and learning when rewards

are present. The susception to rewards and impulsive behavior common among teenagers also

shows an increase in motivation. Risk-taking is most prominent during adolescence and declines

with age because of changes in the brain’s cognitive control system. These changes that come

with age and further brain development improve an individual’s capacity for processing

consequences and self-regulation. These changes occur during this crucial developmental stage,

which makes mid-adolescence a time of heightened vulnerability to impulsive behavior

(Steinberg, 2008). When impulsive behavior is combined with sensitivity to reward, adolescents

tend to become more motivated when incentive is involved. Impulsive behavior causes an

adolescent to desire to act without thinking about consequence, while high activity in the

striatum causes an adolescent to desire to do what is needed to achieve the reward. These past

studies exemplify the positive effects a highly sensitized striatum can have on the learning,

memorization, and motivation of teenagers.

Despite being hypersensitive to rewards, adolescents do not react similarly to

punishments. In a recent study testing the differences in response to reward and punishment

between teenagers and adults, adolescent performance did not benefit from negative feedback.

Adults were more symmetrical in response to reward and punishment. While adults learned and

acted equally as well based on reward and punishment, adolescents learned from reward but

were not as likely to learn from punishment. This further proves the heightened sensitivity of the

striatum during adolescence, and its dominance over considering alternative consequences when

making decisions (Palminteri, Kilford, Coricelli, & Blakemore, 2016). This can also lead to

10
Patel
2018

further conclusions on why impulsive behavior is more prominent during adolescence, as the

negative consequences are less likely to be regarded in decision-making. Additionally, this

shows the efficiency of having teenagers learn by reward rather than punishment. On the other

hand, adults were shown to respond to punishment more effectively than adolescents. The adult

brain is much more stable in its ability to process risk and to make practical decisions, resulting

in a more cautious response when given the opportunity to be punished compared to adolescents.

The heightened sensitivity of the striatum during adolescence due to brain development

and its relation to how adolescents learn and memorize can lead to improvements in academic

performance. Similarly, a better understanding of the effectiveness on reward and punishment on

adults while learning can prove to be vital information for the improvement of educational

programs meant for adults. Therefore, it is critical for education institutions to consider the

benefit of accommodating reward-based systems of learning in middle schools and high schools.

It is equally critical to implement more punishment-based systems of learning in postsecondary

education institutions. Teachers catering to adolescents’ enthusiasm and sensitivity to awards can

have a positive effect on the education of both adolescents and adults, which results in a better

educated and more motivated society.

11
Patel
2018

Materials

- 1 Chromebook

- Scratch programming (scratch.mit.edu)

- 3 Kit Kat Bars Bag, 20.1 oz (569.83 grams)

- 3 M&M'S Milk Chocolate Candy Party Size Bag, 42 oz (1190.68 grams)

12
Patel
2018

Variables

I. Independent

A. Seven tests

1. Test without any incentive or punishment

2. Test with a digital incentive (clapping noise) and no punishment

3. Test with a tangible incentive (receiving chocolate) and no punishment

4. Test with no incentive and a digital punishment (booing noise)

5. Test with no incentive and a tangible punishment (taking away of

chocolate)

6. Test with a digital incentive (clapping noise) and a digital punishment

(booing noise)

7. Test with a tangible incentive (receiving chocolate) and a tangible

punishment (taking away of chocolate)

II. Dependent

A. Scores

1. 10 points gained for every correct answer

13
Patel
2018

2. 10 points lose for every incorrect answer

III. Controlled variables

A. The same tests were given to every participant

B. The same clapping noise was used for every correct answer in a test involving

digital incentive

C. The same booing noise was used for every incorrect answer in a test involving

digital incentive

D. The same types of chocolate were given to every participant for every 30 points

gained in tests involving tangible incentive

E. Each participant received 10 pieces of chocolate (5 Kit-Kats and 5 M&M’s) at the

beginning of each test involving tangible punishment. When applicable, if the

participant wins 30 points, they receive another piece of chocolate, and if the

participant loses 30 points, they lose a piece of chocolate.

14
Patel
2018

Procedure

1. Use Scratch to program the 7 tests

2. Give participants the 7 tests

a. Tests are administered in order

b. The amount of time taken for each trial is dependent on the participant

c. For tests involving tangible incentive and punishment, every 30 points gained on

the test results in the participant receiving a piece of chocolate and every 30

points lost results in the participant losing a piece of chocolate.

d. For tests involving tangible punishment, place 5 Kit-Kats and 5 M&M’s next to

the participant taking the test and give or take away chocolate accordingly.

3. Record the scores for each participant in spreadsheet

15
Patel
2018

Data

16
Patel
2018

Graph 1: Test Scores for Adolescents

17
Patel
2018

Graph 2: Test Scores for Adults

18
Patel
2018

Graph 3: Test Score Averages for Adolescents

Graph 4: Test Score Averages for Adults

19
Patel
2018

Graph 5: Test Score Averages for Adolescents and Adults

20
Patel
2018

Data Analysis

A total of 50 participants were tested in this experiment. As shown in Graph 1 and Graph

2, 25 of the participants were adolescents and the other 25 were adults. Test 1 involved

identifying patterns in a game with no incentive. Test 2 involved identifying patterns in a game

with digital incentive. Test 3 involved identifying patterns in a game with digital and physical

incentive. Test 4 involved identifying patterns in a game with digital punishment. Test 5

involved identifying patterns in a game with tangible punishment. Test 6 involved identifying

patterns in a game with digital incentive and punishment. Test 7 involved identifying patterns in

a game with tangible incentive and punishment. Each correct answer resulted in an addition of 10

points to the participant’s score (which was displayed at the top of the game screen). Each test

was out of 300 points.

In general, adolescents performed better on the tests involving solely incentive (Tests 2

and 3) and adults performed better on the tests involving solely punishment (Tests 4 and 5).

When tests involved either no incentive or punishment at all or both incentive and punishment

(Tests 1, 6, and 7), adolescents and adults performed equally as well.

In Graph 1, the tests scores for all seven tests for adolescents are shown. The trend shown

by the bars in the graph display that adolescents generally perform the best on tests involving

incentive, especially physical incentive. The opposite is shown of adults in Graph 2, where the

higher scores tend to come from tests involving punishment. While these patterns are not true for

every single participant, it is evident that the trend holds true for the majority of participants.

Graph 3 shows the test score averages for adolescents. The average for Test 1 was 170.8,

the average for Test 2 was 200.4, the average for Test 3 was 238.8, the average for Test 4 was

21
Patel
2018

164, the average for Test 5 was 166, the average for Test 6 was 200.8, and the average for Test 7

was 207.6. These results show significant improvement, on average, for adolescents as the

incentive per test increased. However, for the tests involving solely punishment, adolescents

tended to not perform as strongly as they had previously on tests involving incentive. The

averages for tests with both incentive and punishment, Tests 6 and 7, have high score averages,

but they are still lower than the test score average for Test 3, which involved only a tangible

incentive.

Graph 4 shows the test score averages for adults. The average for Test 1 was 170.4, the

average for Test 2 was 185.2, the average for Test 3 was 198.8, the average for Test 4 was 215.2,

the average for Test 5 was 223.6, the average for Test 6 was 199.6, and the average for Test 7

was 205.2. These results show improvement, on average, for adults as the incentive per test

increased. However, the improvement was not as drastic with adults as it was with adolescents.

Additionally, adults tended to improve significantly as punishment became a factor in the tests.

The increase in average test scores from Test 1 to Test 3 was not as significant as the increase

from Test 1 to Test 5. The highest score averages for adults come from tests involving solely

punishment, and the test score average of Tests 6 and 7, which involved both incentive and

punishment, are higher than the score averages of Tests 2 and 3, which had only incentive.

While there was only a 0.4 point difference in average Test 1 scores for adolescents and

adults, adolescents improve by 29.6 points from Test 1 to Test 2 and adults by only 14.8 points.

Adolescents improve by 38.4 points from Test 2 to Test 3 while adults improve by 13.6 points.

From Test 1 to Test 3, adolescents improve by 68 points while adults improve by 28.4 points.

From Test 1 to Test 4, adolescents decrease their average score by 6.8 points while adults

22
Patel
2018

improve it by 44.8 points. From Test 5 to Test 6, adolescents improve their average score by 2

points while adults improve it by 8.4 points. Adolescents and adults improve from Test 1 to Test

6 and Test 6 to Test 7 almost equally. Adolescents improved from Test 1 to Test 6 by 30 points

while adults improved by 29.2 points. The difference between the two is only 0.8 points.

Adolescents improved from Test 6 to Test 7 by 6.8 points while adults improved by 5.6 points.

The difference between the two is 1.2 points.

While each participant performed differently on each test, it is clear that adolescents

performed better on tests involving incentive, while adults performed better on tests involving

punishment.

23
Patel
2018

Discussion

Although the hypotheses were fully supported within the sample of 50 participants, there

were slight differences when using statistics to prove the experiment’s significance when

applying to the general population of adolescents and adults. 2-sample t tests were used to

compare the data between tests. For all of the t tests, the data for each participant was

independent from each other. The data was not normal for any of the tests, therefore the statistics

were calculated with caution.

For the first 2-sample t test, Test 1 scores for adolescents and adults were compared. The

p value was 0.9783, which was greater than the α value of 0.1. Therefore, the statistics fail to

reject the null hypothesis because enough evidence to show that the averages between

adolescents and adults for Test 1 were different was present.

The second 2-sample t test compared Test 2 scores between adolescents and adults. The

alternative hypothesis was the average adolescent score being greater than the average adult

score. The p value was 0.2875, which was greater than the α value of 0.1. Therefore, the statistics

fail to reject the null hypothesis because enough evidence to show that the the average adolescent

score was higher than the average adult score was not present. This statistic disproved part of the

hypothesis, as the hypothesis predicted a higher average adolescent score on Test 2 compared to

adults.

The third 2-sample t test compared Test 3 scores between adolescents and adults. The

alternative hypothesis was the average adolescent score being greater than the average adult

score. The p value was 0.0104, which was less than the α value of 0.1. Therefore the statistics

24
Patel
2018

reject the null hypothesis because there was enough information to show that the average score

for adolescents was higher than the average score for adults.

The fourth 2-sample t test compared Test 4 scores between adolescents and adults. The

alternative hypothesis was the average adolescent score being less than the average adult score.

The p value was 0.00131, which was less than the α value of 0.1. Therefore, the statistics reject

the null hypothesis as there was enough information present to show that the average score for

adults was higher than the average score for adolescents.

The fifth 2-sample t test compared Test 5 scores between adolescents and adults. The

alternative hypothesis was the average adolescent score being less than the average adult score.

The p value was 3.48x10​-7​, which was less than the α value of 0.1. Therefore, the statistics reject

the null hypothesis as there was enough information present to show that the average score for

adults was higher than the average score for adolescents.

The sixth 2-sample t test compared Test 6 scores between adolescents and adults. The

alternative hypothesis was the average adolescent score not being equal to the average adult

score. The p value was 0.965, which was more than the α value of 0.1. Therefore, the statistics

fail to reject the null hypothesis as there wasn’t enough information present to show that the

average score for adolescents and adults were different.

The seventh 2-sample t test compared Test 7 scores between adolescents and adults. The

alternative hypothesis was the average adolescent score not being equal to the average adult

score. The p value was 0.458, which was more than the α value of 0.1. Therefore, the statistics

fail to reject the null hypothesis as there wasn’t enough information present to show that the

average score for adolescents and adults were different.

25
Patel
2018

2-sample t tests were used comparing Test 1 scores to Test 3 scores for both adolescents

and adults. Both had an alternative hypothesis of Test 1 scores being less than Test 3 scores. For

adolescents, the p value was 0.00021, which was less than the α value of 0.1, so the statistics

reject the null hypothesis because there was enough information to show that the average score

for adolescents for Test 1 was lower than the average score for Test 3. The p score for adults was

0.0099, which was less than the α value of 0.1. Therefore, the statistics reject the null hypothesis

because there was enough information to show that the average score for adults for Test 1 was

lower than the average score for Test 3. Although both groups improved with the addition of

incentive, the p value for adolescents was much smaller in comparison to the p value for adults.

Due to this, it was apparent that adolescents improved much more than adults with the addition

of incentive.

2-sample t tests were used comparing Test 1 scores to Test 5 scores for both adolescents

and adults. Both had an alternative hypothesis for Test 1 scores being less than Test 5 scores. For

adolescents, the p value was 0.6315, which was more than the α value of 0.1. Therefore, the

statistics fail to reject the null hypothesis because there was not enough evidence to prove that

Test 1 scores were lower than Test 5 scores for adolescents. The p score for adults was

5.626x10​-6​, which was less than the α value of 0.1. Therefore, the statistics reject the null

hypothesis because there was enough information to show that the average score for adults for

Test 1 was lower than the average score for Test 3. In this case, only adults performed better on

26
Patel
2018

Test 5 compared to Test 1. Due to this, it is evident that adults perform better in the presence of

punishment while adolescents perform equally or worse.

2-sample t tests were used comparing Test 1 scores to Test 7 scores for both adolescents

and adults. Both had an alternative hypothesis for Test 1 scores being less than Test 7 scores. For

adolescents, the p value was 0.00459, which was more than the α value of 0.1. Therefore, the

statistics reject the null hypothesis because there was enough evidence to show that adolescents

did better on Test 7 than on Test 1. The p score for adults was 0.02367, which was more than the

α value of 0.1. Therefore, the statistics reject the null hypothesis because there was enough

evidence to show that adults did better on Test 7 than on Test 1. Due to this, it is evident that

both adolescents and adults perform better in the presence of incentive and punishment than in

the absence of both. However, the p value for adolescents was significantly lower than the p

value for adults, indicating that adolescents respond to incentive and punishment better than

adults do.

27
Patel
2018

Error Analysis

In this experiment, error could be found in the method of physical incentive and/or a

participant’s inclination towards pattern recognition. If a participant does not like the physical

incentive provided (chocolate) then Tests 3 and 7 would be inaccurate tests to measure the

participant’s ability to identify and memorize patterns. Also, some participants may be able to

identify patterns easily before the experiment, and therefore was able to do well enough on the

first test where there was no room for improvement to be made with the addition of incentives

and punishments. The first error can be solved by including various types of incentives in the

experiment so that there is a higher chance of a participant finding at least one of the items

rewarding. The second error cannot be fixed due to the fact that participants were chosen based

off of age, not based off of ability. A participant’s ability can not be determined before the

experiment as the experiment involves testing the ability of a participant to recognize pattern.

28
Patel
2018

Conclusion

The purpose of this experiment was to determine whether adolescents perform better on

pattern-recognition and memorization-based tests compared to adults with the presence of

incentive, and if adults perform better on pattern-recognition and memorization-based tests

compared to adolescents. The first hypothesis was that adolescents would have a statistically

significant higher score on Tests 2 and 3 compared to adults. The second hypothesis was that

adults would have a statistically significant higher score on Tests 4 and 5 compared to

adolescents. The third hypothesis was that adolescents and adults would statistically have the

same test scores on Tests 1, 6, and 7. The fourth hypothesis was that adults would have a higher

average score increase from Test 1 to Test 4 and Test 4 to Test 5 compared to adolescents. The

fifth hypothesis was that adolescents would have a higher average score increase from Test 1 to

Test 2 and Test 2 to Test 3 compared to adults. The sixth hypothesis was that adolescents and

adults would have the same average score increase from Test 1 to Test 6 and Test 6 to Test 7.

The procedure for this experiment involved programming seven pattern-recognition and

memorization based tests using Scratch and administering the tests to 25 adolescents and 25

adults. Test 1 involved no incentive or punishment, Test 2 involved a digital incentive, Test 3

involved a tangible incentive, Test 4 involved a digital punishment, Test 5 involved a tangible

punishment, Test 6 involved a digital incentive and punishment, and Test 7 involved a tangible

incentive and punishment. Each test involved an animated fox and two distinct trees- one place

29
Patel
2018

on the upper right corner of the screen and the other on the bottom right corner. The objective

was to predict which tree the fox would want to approach. This tested pattern-recognition and

memorization as participants had to identify the unique pattern present in each of the seven tests,

as well as memorize the actions of the fox to accurately predict where it would want to go next.

Each correct answer resulted in the addition of 10 points to the score displayed on the top left

corner of the screen, while each incorrect answer resulted in the loss of 10 points. The digital

incentive was a clapping noise, and the digital punishment was a booing noise. The tangible

incentive was receiving chocolate, and the tangible punishment was losing chocolate. At the

beginning of each test involving tangible incentive, the participant was shown a pile of 10 pieces

of chocolate. For every 30 points lost in the test, the participant would see one piece of chocolate

being removed. If the participant gained 30 points in a test where they are rewarded with tangible

incentive, the participant would see a piece of chocolate added to their pile. After the tests were

administered, the scores were recorded and analyzed for their statistical significance.

Based on the results of the experiment, all six of the hypotheses were supported.

Adolescents performed better and improved at a higher rate on the tests with the addition of

incentives, while adults performed better and improved at a higher rate on the tests with the

addition of punishment. In the absence of both incentive and punishment, as well as in the

presence of both, adolescents and adults performed the same on the tests. Statistics from

2-sample t tests show that adolescents had a significant improvement with the addition of a

tangible incentive in Test 3 compared to no incentive in Test 1. A similar trend is evident among

adult participants in their improvement from Test 1 to Test 5. Trends in Graph 1 show that

adolescents typically perform best in the presence of incentives and not as well in the presence of

30
Patel
2018

punishment. The opposite is true of adults, as shown in Graph 2. These experimental results and

statistics prove that the hyperactive striatum during adolescence can be useful when incentive is

used in academic settings. Additionally, the fully developed hippocampus in adults leads to

better risk detection and decision making, which results in a heightened response to punishment.

While the statistics from 2-sample t tests discussed supported the hypotheses, a portion of

Hypothesis I was proven to be incorrect. The statistics indicate that there is significant and equal

growth from Test 1 to Test 2 between adolescents and adults. Despite this being true, the p value

for adolescents (0.00021) was significantly lower than that of adults (0.0099), showing that

adolescents improved much more than adults with the inclusion of incentive to the tests.

These results are significant because they show that adolescents are especially responsive

to incentive, and adults are more susceptible to punishment. With this information, middle school

and high school teachers can increase the use of incentive to both motivate their students and

improve their performance in academics. University professors, among other teachers who teach

adults, can increase the use of punishment to motivate their students and improve their

performance in academics. Being able to prove that adolescents improve significantly on tests

with the addition of incentives and that adults improve significantly on tests with the addition of

punishment will help in improving academic scores and achievements for current and future

adolescents and adults.

31
Patel
2018

Reference List

Cox, T. (2011, October 10). Brain maturity extends well beyond teen years [Blog post].

Retrieved from NPR website:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=141164708

Galvan, A. (2010, February 12). Adolescent Development of the Reward System. Retrieved

October 27, 2016, from National Center for Biotechnology Information website:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2826184/

Kinser, P. A. (2012, September 5). Brain Structures and their Functions. Retrieved November 3,

2016, from Serendip Studio website:

http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/kinser/Structure1.html

Mandal, A. (2014, October 8). What is the Hippocampus? Retrieved November 3, 2016, from

News Medical Life Sciences website:

http://www.news-medical.net/health/Hippocampus-What-is-the-Hippocampus.aspx

Mascarelli, A. L. (2012, October 17). The teenage brain. Retrieved November 2, 2016, from

Science News for Students website:

https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/teenage-brain

32
Patel
2018

Nauert, R. (2015). Rat Study Suggests Different Reward System in Teen Brain. Retrieved

October 27, 2016, from PsychCentral website:

http://psychcentral.com/news/2012/01/19/rat-study-suggests-different-reward-system-in-t

een-brain/33799.html

Palminteri, S., Kilford, E. J., Coricelli, G., & Blakemore, S.-J. (2016, June 20). The

Computational Development of Reinforcement Learning during Adolescence. Retrieved

November 3, 2016, from PLOS Computational Biology website:

http://journals.plos.org/ploscompbiol/article?id=10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004953

Ross, E. (2016, October 6). Teens’ Penchant For Risk-Taking May Help Them Learn Faster.

Retrieved November 3, 2016, from NPR website:

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/10/06/496793162/teens-penchant-for-risk-

taking-may-help-them-learn-faster

Ruder, D. B. (2008, September). The Teen Brain. Retrieved November 2, 2016, from Harvard

Magazine website: http://harvardmagazine.com/2008/09/the-teen-brain.html

Smith, A. R., Steinberg, L., Strang, N., & Chein, J. (2014). Age differences in the impact of

peers on adolescents’ and adults’ neural response to reward. Retrieved November 3,

2016, from ScienceDirect website:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1878929314000619

Steinberg, L. (2008, March 28). A Social Neuroscience Perspective on Adolescent Risk-Taking.

Retrieved November 3, 2016, from National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S.

National Library of Medicine website:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2396566/

33
Patel
2018

Sturman, D. A., & Moghaddam, B. (2012, January 17). Striatum processes reward differently in

adolescents versus adults. Retrieved November 3, 2016, from National Center for

Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine website:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3277117/

The Teen Brain Still Under Construction. (2011). Retrieved November 2, 2016, from National

Institute of Mental Health website:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-teen-brain-still-under-construction/ind

ex.shtml#pub3

34