Publication Date

Spring 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Clifton M. Oyamot


Affect, Decision Making, Emotion, Heuristics, Judgment, Risk

Subject Areas

Experimental psychology; Cognitive psychology; Behavioral sciences


Contrary to the dominant view that generally equates feelings with poor thinking, converging evidence indicates that decisions – including those involving risk – are influenced by affective experiences. Research, however, is limited to studies on undifferentiated, global positive versus negative mood states; less is known about the influence of discrete emotions. The purpose of this research was to extend the affect-cognition literature by (a) examining the effects of discrete emotions varying along the dimensions of valence and arousal, and (b) identifying the systematic ways that discrete emotions underlie risky decision making. We used a set of emotion-laden IAPS images to elicit and compare the impact of incidental emotions on risky decision making. One hundred and twenty-two undergraduate students were randomly assigned to one of the four affective conditions: excitement, contentment, fear, and sadness. Following the emotion induction procedure, participants completed the Choice Dilemmas Questionnaire (CDQ) to assess their risk-taking propensity. Results indicated an interaction effect between valence and arousal for positive emotions, such that excited participants were significantly more risky in their decision making compared to contented participants. The discussion focuses on the theoretical and practical health implications of these findings. We recommend that future research capitalize on the insights gained from emotion research and use it favorably to improve decision making under risk.