Research

Computational Psychiatry & Decision-making

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Abstracts

  • doi pdf Individual differences in bodily freezing predict emotional biases in decision making
  • Ly V, Huys QJM, Stins JF, Roelofs K and Cools R
  • Front. Behav. Neurosci., (2014), 8:237
  • Instrumental decision making has long been argued to be vulnerable to emotional responses. Literature on multiple decision making systems suggests that this emotional biasing might reflect effects of a system that regulates innately specified, evolutionarily preprogrammed responses. To test this hypothesis directly, we investigated whether effects of emotional faces on instrumental action can be predicted by effects of emotional faces on bodily freezing, an innately specified response to aversive relative to appetitive cues. We tested 43 women using a novel emotional decision making task combined with posturography, which involves a force platform to detect small oscillations of the body to accurately quantify postural control in upright stance. On the platform, participants learned whole body approach-avoidance actions based on monetary feedback, while being primed by emotional faces (angry/happy). Our data evidence an emotional biasing of instrumental action. Thus, angry relative to happy faces slowed instrumental approach relative to avoidance responses. Critically, individual differences in this emotional biasing effect were predicted by individual differences in bodily freezing. This result suggests that emotional biasing of instrumental action involves interaction with a system that controls innately specified responses. Furthermore, our findings help bridge (animal and human) decision making and emotion research to advance our mechanistic understanding of decision making anomalies in daily encounters as well as in a wide range of psychopathology.