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Winning and losing: Effects on impulsive action

Verbruggen, Frederick, Chambers, Christopher D., Lawrence, Natalia S. and McLaren, Ian P. L. 2017. Winning and losing: Effects on impulsive action. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 43 (1) , pp. 147-168. 10.1037/xhp0000284

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In the present study, we examined the effect of wins and losses on impulsive action in gambling (Experiments 1-3) and nongambling tasks (Experiments 4-5). In each experiment, subjects performed a simple task in which they had to win points. On each trial, they had to choose between a gamble and a nongamble. The gamble was always associated with a higher amount but a lower probability of winning than the nongamble. After subjects indicated their choice (i.e., gamble or not), feedback was presented. They had to press a key to start the next trial. Experiments 1-3 showed that, compared to the nongambling baseline, subjects were faster to initiate the next trial after a gambled loss, indicating that losses can induce impulsive actions. In Experiments 4 and 5, subjects alternated between the gambling task and a neutral decision-making task in which they could not win or lose points. Subjects were faster in the neutral decision-making task if they had just lost in the gambling task, suggesting that losses have a general effect on action. Our results challenge the dominant idea that humans become more cautious after suboptimal outcomes. Instead, they indicate that losses in the context of potential rewards are emotional events that increase impulsivity.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Publisher: American Psychological Association
ISSN: 1939-1277
Funders: ESRC, BBSRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 21 July 2017
Date of Acceptance: 7 June 2016
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2017 12:20

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