Effects of emotion on prospection during decision-making
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In two experiments we examined the role of emotion, specifically worry, anxiety, and mood, on prospection during decision-making. Worry is a particularly relevant emotion to study in the context of prospection because high levels of worry may make individuals more aversive toward the uncertainty associated with the prospect of obtaining future improvements in rewards or states. Thus, high levels of worry might lead to reduced prospection during decision-making and enhance preference for immediate over delayed rewards. In Experiment 1 participants performed a two-choice dynamic decision-making task where they were required to choose between one option (the decreasing option) which provided larger immediate rewards but declines in future states, and another option (the increasing option) which provided smaller immediate rewards but improvements in future states, making it the optimal choice. High levels of worry were associated with poorer performance in the task. Additionally, fits of a sophisticated reinforcement-learning model that incorporated both reward-based and state-based information suggested that individuals reporting high levels of worry gave greater weight to the immediate rewards they would receive on each trial than to the degree to which each action would lead to improvements in their future state. In Experiment 2 we found that high levels of worry were associated with greater delay discounting using a standard delay discounting task. Combined, the results suggest that high levels of worry are associated with reduced prospection during decision-making. We attribute these results to high worriers' aversion toward the greater uncertainty associated with attempting to improve future rewards than to maximize immediate reward. These results have implications for researchers interested in the effects of emotion on cognition, and suggest that emotion strongly affects the focus on temporal outcomes during decision-making.
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