From avoidance to approach: The influence of threat-of-shock on reward-based decision making

Bublatzky, Florian ; Alpers, Georg W. ; Pittig, Andre

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Document Type: Article
Year of publication: 2017
The title of a journal, publication series: Behaviour Research and Therapy
Volume: 96
Page range: 47-56
Place of publication: Amsterdam [u.a.]
Publishing house: Elsevier
ISSN: 0005-7967 , 1873-622X
Publication language: English
Institution: School of Social Sciences > Klinische u. Biologische Psychologie u. Psychotherapie (Alpers 2010-)
Subject: 150 Psychology
Abstract: Potential threat can prime defensive responding and avoidance behavior, which may result in the loss of rewards. When aversive consequences do not occur, avoidance should, thus, be quickly overcome in healthy individuals. This study examined the impact of threat anticipation on reward-based decisions. Sixty-five participants completed a decision-making task in which they had to choose between high- and low-reward options. To model an approach-avoidance conflict, the high-reward option was contingent with a threat-of-shock cue; the low-reward option was contingent with a safety cue. In control trials, decisions were made without threat/safety instructions. Overall, behavioral data documented a typical preference for the profitable option. Importantly, under threat-of-shock, participants initially avoided the profitable option (i.e., safe, but less profitable choices). However, when they experienced that shocks did actually not occur, participants overcame initial avoidance in favor of larger gains. Furthermore, autonomic arousal (skin conductance and heart rate responses) was elevated during threat cues compared to safety and non-threatening control cues. Taken together, threat-of-shock was associated with behavioral consequences: initially, participants avoided threat-related options but made more profitable decisions as they experienced no aversive consequences. Although socially acquired threat contingencies are typically stable, incentives for approach can help to overcome threat-related avoidance.

Dieser Eintrag ist Teil der Universitätsbibliographie.

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