Winning and losing: Effects on impulsive action
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
American Psychological Association
This is the author accepted manuscript of an open access article. The final version is available from the American Psychological Association via the DOI in this record. Published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
In the present study, we examined the effect of wins and losses on impulsive action in gambling (Experiments 1-3) and non-gambling 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 non-gamble. The gamble was always associated with a higher amount but a lower probability of winning than the non-gamble. 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 non-gambling 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.
This work was supported by an Economic and Social Research Council Grant (ES/J00815X/1) to FV, CDC & IPLM, a starting grant to FV from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ ERC Grant Agreement No. 312445, and a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council Grant (BB/K008277/1) to CDC and FV.
Published online 03 November 2016