Effects of Outcomes and Random Arbitration on Emotions in a Competitive Gambling Task

Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, University of Geneva Geneva, Switzerland.
Frontiers in Psychology (Impact Factor: 2.8). 10/2011; 2:213. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00213
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Research on self-serving biases in judgments and decision-making suggests that individuals first evaluate the outcomes they get, and then the procedures by which these outcomes were obtained. Evidence also suggests that the appraisal of the former (outcome favorability) can bias the appraisal of the latter (procedural fairness). We investigated the nature of the emotions that are elicited by these appraisals by using a new paradigm in which participants performed a choice task between pairs of competing gambles against a virtual opponent. Conflicts (when the participant selected the same gamble as his virtual opponent) were resolved by a neutral arbitrator who either confirmed the participant's choice ("pro-self") or attributed his gamble to the virtual opponent ("pro-competitor"). Trials in which the participant and his virtual opponent selected different gambles ("no-conflict") served as a control condition. In order to validate this new task, emotional reactions to the outcomes of the gambles were measured using self-reports, skin conductance responses, and facial electromyography (zygomaticus, corrugator, and frontalis). In no-conflict trials, effects of counterfactual thinking and social comparison resulted in (i) increased happiness as well as SCR and zygomaticus activity for wins compared to losses (valence effect) and for high compared to low gains (magnitude effect), and (ii) increased anger, regret, disappointment, and envy for losses compared to wins (valence effect). More importantly, compared to no-conflict trials and to pro-self awards with similar outcomes, pro-competitor awards increased subjective reports of anger for unfavorable outcomes, and increased happiness and guilt for favorable outcomes. Although the outcomes were independent from the arbitrators' decisions, and both the arbitrators' decisions and the outcomes were kept equally likely, individuals tended to attribute their outcomes to unfair arbitrators, reacting emotionally, especially when the modification of their initial choice for a gamble led to a negative outcome.

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    ABSTRACT: This study investigated responses to near-wins (i.e., nonwin outcomes that were close to a major win, and their counterpart, near-losses (nonwin outcomes that are proximal to a major loss) in a decision-making task, measuring (a) luck ratings, (b) adjustment of bet amount, and (c) facial muscle reactivity at zygomaticus and corrugator sites. Compared to full-misses, near-wins decreased self-perceived luck and near-losses increased self-perceived luck, consistent with the effects of upward versus downward counterfactual thinking, respectively. Wins and losses both increased zygomaticus reactivity, and losses selectively enhanced corrugator reactivity. Near-wins heightened zygomaticus activity, but did not affect corrugator activity, thus showing a similar response pattern to actual wins. There were no significant facial EMG effects of near-losses. We infer that near-wins engender some appetitive processing, despite their objective nonwin status.
    Psychophysiology 10/2014; 52(3). DOI:10.1111/psyp.12336 · 3.18 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: This study investigated how the corrugator and zygomaticus respond to decision outcomes (i.e., gains and losses). We used a gambling task in which participants were presented with obtained followed by non-obtained outcomes. Activity at the corrugator site was sensitive to decision outcomes, such that higher obtained losses (disappointment) and higher non-obtained gains (regret) both heightened corrugator reactivity. Activity at the zygomaticus site was not responsive to obtained or non-obtained outcomes, but did show sensitivity to emotional images in the same participants, in the form of a positive linear relationship with self-reported emotional valence. Corrugator activity was negatively related to emotional valence. The findings indicate the sensitivity of corrugator to objective decision outcomes and also counterfactual comparisons, highlighting the utility of facial electromyography in research on decision making and gambling behavior.
    11/2014; DOI:10.1111/psyp.12371

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