Incentive motivation improves numerosity discrimination in children and adolescents

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributed


We recently showed that incentive motivation improves the precision of the Approximate Number System (ANS) in young adults. To shed light on the development of incentive motivation, the present study investigated whether this effect and its underlying mechanisms may also be observed in younger samples. Specifically, seven-year-old children (n = 23; 12 girls) and 14-year-old adolescents (n = 30; 15 girls) performed a dot comparison task with monetary reward incentives. Both age groups showed higher accuracy in a reward compared to a neutral condition and, similarly, higher processing efficiency as revealed by the drift rate parameter of the EZ-diffusion model. Furthermore, in line with the Incentive Salience Hypothesis, phasic pupil dilations—indicating the activation of the brain’s salience network—were greater in incentivized trials in both age groups. Together these finding suggest that incentive modulation improves numerosity discrimination in children and adolescents by enhancing the perceptual saliency of numerosity information. However, the observed reward anticipation effects were less pronounced in children relative to adolescents. Furthermore, unlike previous findings regarding young adults, the decision thresholds of children and adolescents were not raised by the monetary reward, which may indicate a more protracted development of incentive regulation of response caution than perceptual evidence accumulation.


Original languageEnglish
Article number10038
Number of pages12
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2022

External IDs

Scopus 85132116878
PubMed 35710929
ORCID /0000-0001-8409-5390/work/142254928


ASJC Scopus subject areas


  • Adolescent, Child, Female, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Motivation, Reward, Young Adult