Tired winners: The effects of cognitive resources and prior winning on risky decision making

Abstract

Previous research has shown mixed results regarding the effects of cognitively draining tasks, sometimes reporting that the depletion of cognitive resources increases risk taking and other times reporting that depletion leads to increases in risk aversion. Additionally, evidence has been provided demonstrating that both winning and losing can increase future risk-taking. This experiment was designed to assess the interaction between cognitive resource depletion and outcomes in blackjack on risky decision making. A 2 × 2 between subjects design was employed in which 81 university undergraduates were randomized to either a cognitive resource depletion condition or control condition and then a winning condition or losing condition. Participants completed a self-report measure of decision making and then a completed a task in which they could make actual wagers to win a lottery. Evidence is provided for the conclusion that people become risk averse to lottery style gambles after cognitive depletion and losing. Research and clinical implications are discussed.

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