Do you ever feel like you're, like, so random? Are you also in the thick of a quarter-life crisis? According to science, that's not just a coincidence. New research indicates that the best age to make random choices is when you're 25 years old. I'm not talking about "random" music tastes or the tendency to blurt things out — this is science, folks. When researchers say random, they mean it, and it's more important than you might think.
Despite what you may believe about the results of games like rock, paper, scissors, truly random behavior is hard to come by. In fact, many psychologists believe it's connected to complex thinking and creativity — some of the abilities that make humans so intelligent compared to our neighbors in the animal kingdom. In a study published in PLOS Computational Biology this month, researchers looked at the factors affecting random behavior, asking more than 3,400 participants to perform five tasks assessing their ability to make random choices. For example, one task asked them to guess the hypothetical results of 10 rolls of a die; as you may remember from math class, the way a die lands is as random as it gets.
Afterward, researchers analyzed the results in terms of "algorithmic randomness," which they write is "based on the idea that patterns that are more random are harder to encode in a short computer program." After controlling for factors like gender and education, researchers found that age was the best predictor of random behavior. To be specific, it peaked at 25 years old, and it was all downhill from there. Around 60 years old, it started to decline more sharply.
So why should you care? It all comes down to the algorithms mentioned earlier. Computer programs have a harder time predicting chaos, so to speak, so basically, people who were able to make more truly random choices could be considered more intelligent than a computer. "25 is, on average, the golden age when humans best outsmart computers," explained Dr. Nicolas Gauvrit, according to Science Daily.
Given that randomness — again, actual random behavior — has been associated with higher cognitive abilities, it's also an indication of how complex thinking changes with age. It's well-known that higher-order thinking tends to slow as you get older, although it's worth noting that there's evidence complex reasoning actually improves with age. (Creative pursuits and physical activity also help stave off dementia and other forms of cognitive decline.) Either way, the study's results could be used to inform further research on how our brains age, and what effect that has on our intelligence.
In the meantime, if you're in your mid-20s, take this as good news: At this very moment, you're smarter than a computer, so you don't have to worry about a robot taking your job. That's more than can be said for most people.