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Stimulus-preceding negativity represents a conservative response tendency

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Humans tend to be conservative and typically will retain their initial decision even if an option to change is provided. We investigated whether the stimulus-preceding negativity (SPN), an event-related potential associated with the affective-motivational anticipation of feedback in gambling tasks, represents the strong response tendency to retain an initial decision. We compared SPNs in three different card-gambling tasks wherein the participants were given the opportunity to change their initial decision after they chose one of three cards. In two of these tasks, the winning probability was equiprobable (1/3 and 1/2, respectively) whether or not the participants changed their initial decision. However, in the Monty Hall dilemma task, changing the initial decision stochastically doubled the probability of winning (2/3) compared with retaining (1/3). In this counterintuitive probabilistic dilemma task, after the participant chose an option among three cards, a nonreward (losing) option is revealed. Then, the participants are offered a chance to change their mind and asked to make their final decision: to retain their initial choice or change to the alternate option. In all tasks, maintenance of previous behaviors was observed, although the rate of retaining earlier choices tended to be lower in the Monty Hall dilemma task than in the other two tasks. The SPNs were larger on retain trials than on change trials irrespective of task. These results suggest that underlying brain activities associated with the strong tendency to retain the initial decision can be observed by the SPN and thus it reflects expectancy of outcomes in terms of self-chosen behaviors.
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Keywords: Monty Hall dilemma; conservative response; gambling task; stimulus-preceding negativity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Graduate School of Sport Sciences 2: Department of Psychology, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada 3: Faculty of Sport Sciences, Waseda University, Tokorozawa, Saitama, Japan

Publication date: January 20, 2016

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