Emotion Regulation And Cognitive Representation Modulate Neural Activation To Risky Gains And Losses

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Theory and research implicate both emotional and cognitive processes in risky choice framing effects. However, the relative contributions of, and interactions between, these processes are poorly characterized. Prospect theory attributes framing effects to a value function that incorporates emotional valence (i.e., discounting of gains relative to losses). Fuzzy-trace theory attributes framing effects to simplified cognitive representations, which facilitate comparing the values and emotions associated with each framing option. Variants of dual-process theories, such as the affect heuristic and hot-cold framework, attribute framing effects to emotional reactivity (which is facilitated by type 1, automatic cognitive processing, and is sometimes overridden by type 2, deliberative cognitive processing). Although prior studies have described brain activation during risky choice framing effects, no study to date has used MRI data to test these competing theoretical explanations. Using a cognitive manipulation, we tested competing hypotheses of prospect theory versus fuzzy-trace theory. We also tested whether this cognitive manipulation could explain unique variance beyond individual differences in emotion regulation, by relating framing decisions to performance on an emotional go/no-go task. A behavioral sample (N = 99) completed both a framing task and an emotional go/no-go task. A subset of this sample (N = 32) completed the framing task inside an MRI scanner. iv We observed effects of both cognitive manipulation and emotion regulation on framing decisions. The cognitive manipulation increased or decreased framing effects (in conditions predicted by fuzzy-trace theory, but not by prospect theory). In addition, poorer emotion regulation predicted increased susceptibility to framing effects. Crucially, the cognitive manipulation accounted for unique variance after controlling for emotion regulation. These behavioral results support predictions by fuzzy trace theory, the affect heuristic, and the hot-cold framework. Framing effects were associated with activation in a network of frontal, parietal and subcortical regions, including the amygdala, dorsal striatum, inferior parietal lobule, and ventral prefrontal cortex. Poorer emotion regulation was associated with increased activation in the amygdala and caudate during framing-consistent decisions. These results suggest that both cognitive and emotional processing contribute to framing effects, and that cognitive representations can modulate risky decision making independently of emotion regulation ability.

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risky choice framing effects; emotion regulation; cognition


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Developmental Psychology

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Ph. D., Developmental Psychology

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document




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dissertation or thesis

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