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Affective and Deliberative Processes in Risky Choice: Age Differences in Risk Taking in the Columbia Card Task

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, Vol. 35, No. 3, pp. 709-730, May 2009

22 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2009 Last revised: 31 Aug 2011

Bernd Figner

Columbia University

Rachael Mackinlay

University of Zurich

Friedrich Wilkening

University of Zurich

Elke U. Weber

Columbia Business School - Management & Psychology

Date Written: May 1, 2009

Abstract

The authors investigated risk taking and underlying information use in 13 to 16 and 17 to 19 year old adolescents and in adults in 4 experiments, using a novel dynamic risk-taking task, the Columbia Card Task (CCT). The authors investigated risk taking under differential involvement of affective versus deliberative processes with 2 versions of the CCT, constituting the most direct test of a dual-system explanation of adolescent risk taking in the literature so far. The "hot" CCT was designed to trigger more affective decision making, whereas the "cold" CCT was designed to trigger more deliberative decision making. Differential involvement of affective versus deliberative processes in the 2 CCT versions was established by self-reports and assessment of electrodermal activity. Increased adolescent risk taking, coupled with simplified information use, was found in the hot but not the cold condition. Need-for-arousal predicted risk taking only in the hot condition, whereas executive functions predicted information use in the cold condition. Results are consistent with recent dual-system explanations of risk taking as the result of competition between affective processes and deliberative cognitive-control processes, with adolescents' affective system tending to override the deliberative system in states of heightened emotional arousal.

Keywords: risk taking, adolescence, affective and deliberative decision making, dual system, cognitive control

Suggested Citation

Figner, Bernd and Mackinlay, Rachael and Wilkening, Friedrich and Weber, Elke U., Affective and Deliberative Processes in Risky Choice: Age Differences in Risk Taking in the Columbia Card Task (May 1, 2009). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, Vol. 35, No. 3, pp. 709-730, May 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1420297 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1420297

Bernd Figner (Contact Author)

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Rachael Mackinlay

University of Zurich ( email )

Rämistrasse 71
Zürich, CH-8006
Switzerland

Friedrich Wilkening

University of Zurich ( email )

Rämistrasse 71
Zürich, CH-8006
Switzerland

Elke U. Weber

Columbia Business School - Management & Psychology ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

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