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Risk taking behaviors in everyday-life typically follow a characteristic developmental pattern. They are low during childhood, increase sharply with puberty, peak in adolescence and early adulthood, and decline again during middle and late adulthood. Though well documented, e.g., from accident statistics, the reasons are still not very well understood. Recent neuroscientific research suggested that the competition between distinct neural networks determines risk taking. Only when affective processes are triggered, adolescents tend to show more impulsive risk taking and suboptimal information use than both children and adults because of a usually transient dominance of the affective over the cognitive-control network.

We developed the “Columbia Card Task” (CCT) to investigate developmental changes and individual differences in healthy individuals across the life span and in populations such as substance users. The CCT enables us to compare affect-based versus deliberative risky decisions and their triggering mechanisms as well as predictors of risk taking, such as inhibitory control, need-for-arousal, and impulsivity. Besides behavioral methods, we are using physiological measures, brain imaging, and brain stimulation techniques.

The CCT that measures affect-based risky decision making is simply named the “Hot Version” of the task, while the version that measures deliberative risky decision making is the “Cold version”.

Visit the "Test It" page (see menu above) for links to test online versions of both the Hot and Cold CCT.

For a verson that runs offline, visit the "Downloads" page.