In order to examine the influence of affect on decision-making, experimenters assessed performance on the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) as a function of affective prime type. Primes were positive, negative, or neutral affective images. Subjects in the exposure phase were prompted to view and rate neutral target images immediately following subliminally masked affective primes. Controls in the experiment were subjects who were not exposed to affective primes. The rating task served both as a distractor task and a measure of prime effectiveness. Following the exposure phase, subjects were prompted to begin the Iowa Gambling Task. During both phases, experimenters measured autonomic activity by monitoring Skin Conductance Responses (SCRs). It was hypothesized that subjects who were exposed to negative affective primes would perform better on the IGT than subjects exposed to positive primes. In addition, it was hypothesized that anticipatory SCRs to “bad” decks would be stronger for subjects previously exposed to negative affective primes, as opposed to subjects exposed to positive and neutral primes. Experimenters, thus, predicted that valence-specific, rather than emotion-specific, information will have the most impact on decision-making. Therefore, consistent with theories positing a general influence of affect, such as the mere-exposure effect (Zajonc, 1968) and affective primacy (Zajonc, 1980), the current study proposed that affective influences on cognitive processes such as decision-making are both vague and global.
William Hatcher, ’12
Majors: Psychology, English and Creative Writing
Sponsor: Alice Ganzel