Skip to main content

Recent Research in Emotional Decision Making

By August 20, 2021August 25th, 2021No Comments
NAMI Symbol

Stress Makes the Difference: Social Stress and Social Anxiety in Decision-Making Under Uncertainty

Hengen KM, Alpers GW. Stress Makes the Difference: Social Stress and Social Anxiety in Decision-Making Under Uncertainty. Front Psychol. 2021 Feb 22;12:578293. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.578293. PMID: 33692716; PMCID: PMC7937725.

  • “Stress and anxiety can both influence risk-taking in decision-making. While stress typically increases risk-taking, anxiety often leads to risk-averse choices. Few studies have examined both stress and anxiety in a single paradigm to assess risk-averse choices. We therefore set out to examine emotional decision-making under stress in socially anxious participants.”
  • “In our study, individuals (N = 87) high or low in social anxiety completed an expanded variation of the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART). While inflating a balloon to a larger degree is rewarded, a possible explosion leads to (a) a loss of money and (b) it is followed by an emotional picture (i.e., a calm vs. an angry face). To induce stress before this task, participants were told that they would have to deliver a speech.”
  • “We operationalized risk-taking by the number of pumps during inflation and its functionality by the amount of monetary gain. In addition, response times were recorded as an index of decisional conflict. Without the stressor, high socially anxious compared to low socially anxious participants did not differ in any of the dependent variables. However, under stress, the low socially anxious group took more risk and earned more money, while high socially anxious individuals remained more cautious and did not change their risk-taking under social stress.”
  • “Overall, high socially anxious individuals made their decisions more hesitantly compared to low socially anxious individuals. Unexpectedly, there were no main effects or interactions with the valence of the emotional faces.”
  • “This data shows that stress affects socially anxious individuals differently: in low socially anxious individuals stress fosters risk-taking, whereas high socially anxious individuals did not alter their behavior and remained risk-averse.”
  • “The novel eBART is a promising research tool to examine the specific factors that influence decision-making.”

Iowa Gambling Task and Distortion in Perception of Body Image Among Adolescent Women With Eating Disorders

Martínez-García C, Parra-Martínez C, Parra ÁT, Martínez-García TE, Alameda-Bailén JR. Iowa Gambling Task and Distortion in Perception of Body Image Among Adolescent Women With Eating Disorders. Front Psychol. 2020 Aug 31;11:2223. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.02223. PMID: 32982892; PMCID: PMC7488598.

  • “The Iowa gambling task (IGT) is an instrument for the neuropsychological evaluation of cognitive and emotional decision making (DM) processes that was created to test the somatic marker hypothesis (SMH) described by Damasio in 1994. It was initially applied to patients with frontal lobe lesions due to its association with executive functions but was subsequently used on patients with a variety of disorders.”
  • “Although the DM process is inherently perceptual, few studies have applied the IGT to examine DM processes in patients with eating disorders (EDs), and even fewer have associated the IGT to the perceptual distortion of body image (PDBI) in this population.
  • “This study compares the performance of two samples of adolescent women-hospitalized patients with ED, and healthy controls with similar demographic characteristics-on the IGT using body image as a possible factor in the SMH. Seventy-four women with a mean age of 14.97 years (SD = 2.347) participated. To analyze their body self-image, we used the figure-rating scale and compared the results with their body mass index (BMI). Correlations between indices of the IGT and distortion in body image were then explored.”
  • “The results revealed significant differences between the groups in terms of evolving performance on the partial IGT. Patients with ED performed worse than their healthy counterparts in the last 40 trials and exhibited greater distortions in their body image, especially in terms of overestimation. Indices of these distortions were negatively correlated with the total IGT. These results are compatible with the SMH because they suggest that patients with ED evinced blindness with regard to the future, as described by their authors.”
  • “In addition, a negative correlation was found between the IGT and PDBI, showing that a more distorted body image was associated with lower IGT, that is, more disadvantageous or riskier decisions were made by the subjects with more distortion.”

Children’s Road-Crossing Behavior: Emotional Decision Making and Emotion-Based Temperamental Fear and Anger

Hashemi Juzdani M, Morgan CH, Schwebel DC, Tabibi Z. Children’s Road-Crossing Behavior: Emotional Decision Making and Emotion-Based Temperamental Fear and Anger. J Pediatr Psychol. 2020 Nov 1;45(10):1188-1198. doi: 10.1093/jpepsy/jsaa076. PMID: 32951057; PMCID: PMC7850000.

  • “Child pedestrian injuries represent a global public health burden. To date, most research on psychosocial factors affecting children’s risk of pedestrian injury focused on cognitive aspects of children’s functioning in traffic. Recent evidence suggests, however, that emotional aspects such as temperament-based fear and anger/frustration, as well as executive function-based emotional decision making, may also affect children’s safety in traffic.”
  • “This study examined the role of emotions on children’s pedestrian behavior. Three hypotheses were considered: (a) emotion-based temperament factors of fear and anger/frustration will predict children’s risky decisions and behaviors; (b) emotional decision making will predict risky pedestrian decisions and behaviors; and (c) children’s pedestrian decision making will mediate relations between emotion and risky pedestrian behavior. The role of gender was also considered.”
  • “In total, 140 6- to 7-year-old children (M = 6.7 years, SD = 0.39; 51% girls) participated. Parent-report subscales of Child Behavior Questionnaire measured temperamental fear and anger/frustration. The Hungry Donkey Task, a modified version of Iowa Gambling Task for children, measured children’s emotional decision making, and a mobile virtual reality pedestrian environment measured child pedestrian behavior.”
  • “Greater anger/frustration, lesser fear, and more emotional decision making all predicted poorer pedestrian decision making. The mediational model demonstrated that pedestrian decision making, as assessed by delays entering safe traffic gaps, mediated the relation between emotion and risky pedestrian behavior. Analyses stratified by gender showed stronger mediation results for girls than for boys.”
  • “These results support the influence of emotions on child pedestrian behavior and reinforce the need to incorporate emotion regulation training into child pedestrian education programs.”

Acute stress amplifies experienced and anticipated regret in counterfactual decision-making

Wu Y, van Dijk E, Li H. Acute stress amplifies experienced and anticipated regret in counterfactual decision-making. Stress. 2021 Jul;24(4):359-369. doi: 10.1080/10253890.2020.1813275. Epub 2020 Sep 8. PMID: 32897115.

  • “Previous research has shown that stress can affect emotion processing in a variety of settings. However, little attention has been paid to the effects of stress on emotional decision-making.”
  • “The present study addressed this question by exposing healthy young participants either to a stressor (n = 30)-socially evaluated cold pressor task- or a non-stressful control task (n = 30). Subsequently, participants completed a computerized decision-making task in which they could compare the obtained factual outcome with a non-obtained counterfactual outcome. Saliva samples were taken at four time points over the course of the experiment and used to analyze cortisol levels.”
  • “Results revealed that acute stress induced reliable salivary cortisol increase over the experimental task. At the outcome delivery stage, acute stress amplified negative emotions induced by the counterfactual comparison. At the choice stage, under stress, participants were more likely to make regret-averse decisions.”
  • “The findings that acute stress amplifies both experienced and anticipated regret is consistent with dual process frameworks such that stress tilts decision-making toward more emotional and intuitive processing.”

Evaluation of the SPARK Child Mentoring Program: A Social and Emotional Learning Curriculum for Elementary School Students

Green AL, Ferrante S, Boaz TL, Kutash K, Wheeldon-Reece B. Evaluation of the SPARK Child Mentoring Program: A Social and Emotional Learning Curriculum for Elementary School Students. J Prim Prev. 2021 Aug 17. doi: 10.1007/s10935-021-00642-3. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34402995.

  • “Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) programs seek to enhance social and emotional competencies in children, including self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. By means of direct instruction regarding social and emotional competencies, SEL programs have the potential to strengthen resilience in children and thus their capacity to effectively cope with life’s challenges.”
  • “Strengthening resilience in children who are repeatedly exposed to adverse experiences, particularly those from economically disadvantaged minority backgrounds, is of particular importance and has implications for the prevention of a multitude of problems later in life.”
  • “Our study reports the result of an investigation of the SPARK Child Mentoring program, a resilience-focused SEL program designed to reduce risk factors, uncover innate resilience, promote natural emotional well-being, and facilitate school success.”
  • “We employed a randomized controlled trial comprising 94 elementary school students that included pre- and post-intervention measurements. After controlling for pre-intervention levels, we found a significant difference between students’ understanding of underlying program principles; communication, decision making, and problem-solving skills; emotional regulation; and resilience for students who received the intervention compared to students who did not receive the intervention.”
  • “These results provide initial evidence for the efficacy of the SPARK Child Mentoring program with a diverse sample of elementary school students and adds to the existing literature base concerning positive outcomes associated with SEL programs. We discuss implications for future research focused on long-term preventive effects of the program and the characteristics of students most likely to benefit from it.”


*** ***

NAMI Montana has a resource guide for every county in Montana. Check it out at

The Treatment Scout website helps people find effective inpatient and residential care. It can also help you explore other intensive care options for mental health, addiction, etc. Find out more at