Your Brain Could Become Increasingly Less Creative After Age 25

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If you want to surprise even yourself with your decision on a subject, it's best to be under the age of 26.

New research from PLOS Computational Biology demonstrates that the brain's ability to make random choices peaks around age 25, and deteriorates from there.

In a study conducted at the LABORES for the Natural and Digital Sciences, researchers had 3,429 participants between the ages of four and 91 take part in online tests that showcased random environments, such as choosing heads or tails in a coin toss or picking a card from a deck. After analyzing the results, they found that the ability to come up with the most random responses (i.e. the ones that least adhered to a pattern) peaked at age 25, and went downhill from there.

random decision making

But why, you may be wondering, is random decision-making being analyzed in the first place?

According to a large body of research, being able to make decisions without relying on prior experience or behaviour could be a key to creative thinking and getting away from norms. It's why, for example, brainstorming is seen as such a great way to come up with new ways of approaching subjects.

Perhaps most relevantly to our present world, it's also the main way in which human behaviour can be differentiated from that of a computer.

"This experiment is a kind of reverse Turing test for random behaviour, a test of strength between algorithms and humans," one of the study's co-authors, Hector Zenil, says in a press release.

"25 is, on average, the golden age when humans best outsmart computers," concludes co-author Dr. Nicolas Gauvrit.

woman on computer

Of course, that's not to say there isn't a place for decisions based on lived experience and potential outcomes — in fact, that's where most of our important choices should come from.

As social psychology writer Oliver Burkeman noted in a 2014 piece on random decisions in the Guardian, "For tiny choices, [randomness is] a time-saver: pick randomly from a menu, and you can get back to chatting with friends. For bigger ones, it’s an acknowledgment of how little one can ever know about the complex implications of a decision.

"Let’s be realistic: for the biggest decisions, such as whom to marry, trusting to randomness feels absurd. But if you can up the randomness quotient for marginally less weighty choices, especially when uncertainty prevails, you may find it pays off."

It should be noted that based on the research, those who are older than 25 are still able to make random decisions, they just do so in lesser amounts.

So while you can't change your age, at the very least, consider this a great reason to keep younger friends and family members close at hand.