Welcome to the new version of CaltechAUTHORS. Login is currently restricted to library staff. If you notice any issues, please email coda@library.caltech.edu
Published January 24, 2019 | Published + Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

Relief from incidental fear evokes exuberant risk taking


Incidental emotions are defined as feelings that are unrelated to a decision task at hand and thereby not normatively relevant for making choices. The precise influence and formal theoretical implications of incidental emotions regarding financial risk taking are still largely unclear. An effect of incidental emotion on decision-making would challenge the main extant formal theoretical economic models because such models do not allow for an effect of incidental emotions. As financial risk taking is pervasive in modern economies, the role of incidental emotions is an important issue. The goal of this experimental study is threefold. First, we examine the impact of incidental fear on the choice between a sure and a risky monetary option. A well-validated method of fear induction, using electric shocks, is employed for that purpose. Based on emotion studies we hypothesize less risk taking under fear and more risk taking when relieved of fear. Our second goal is to investigate the relative performance of the main existing formal theoretical economic models (based on Expected Utility Theory, Prospect Theory, or the Mean-Variance model) in explaining the behavioral data. We also investigate how these models can be adjusted to accommodate any observed influence of incidental emotion. For that reason, we first theoretically model the potential pathways of incidental fear (and the relief thereof) via the valuation of the choice option rewards or risk-assessment. We then estimate the relevant parameters allowing for both additive as well as interactive effects. Our third and final goal is to explore the neural basis of any observed influence of incidental emotions on decision-making by means of a model-based fMRI analysis, using the findings of existing neuroeconomic studies as the basis for our hypotheses. Our results indicate that the relief of fear can give a substantial boost to financial risk taking (suggestive of exuberance). This impact is best captured by Prospect Theory if we allow for an increase in participants' valuation of option outcomes when relieved of fear. Moreover, this impact is manifested at the neural level by the activity of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), a brain area widely regarded as being central for valuation.

Additional Information

© 2019 van Well et. al. This is an open access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. Received: December 9, 2017; Accepted: January 7, 2019; Published: January 24, 2019. Data Availability Statement: The data underlying the results presented in the study are available from the Open Science Framework (https://osf.io/pwus7/) DOI 10.17605/OSF.IO/PWUS7. For MRI data go to Neurovault.org. Shocked contrast: https://neurovault.org/collections/XARLTMZQ/. Touched contrast: https://neurovault.org/collections/DDWMWXCU/. The study was funded by The Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences (California Institute of Technology)—US National Science Foundation grant 1062703 to JOD, The Research Priority Area Behavioral Economics (University of Amsterdam) and the Amsterdam Brain and Cognition (ABC) center (University of Amsterdam). The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. Author Contributions: Conceptualization: Sonja van Well, John P. O'Doherty, Frans van Winden. Data curation: Sonja van Well. Formal analysis: Sonja van Well, Frans van Winden. Funding acquisition: John P. O'Doherty, Frans van Winden. Investigation: Sonja van Well, Frans van Winden. Methodology: Sonja van Well, John P. O'Doherty, Frans van Winden. Project administration: Sonja van Well. Resources: John P. O'Doherty, Frans van Winden. Supervision: John P. O'Doherty, Frans van Winden. Visualization: Sonja van Well. Writing – original draft: Sonja van Well, Frans van Winden. Writing – review & editing: Sonja van Well, John P. O'Doherty, Frans van Winden.

Attached Files

Published - journal.pone.0211018.pdf

Supplemental Material - journal.pone.0211018.s001.png

Supplemental Material - journal.pone.0211018.s002.png

Supplemental Material - journal.pone.0211018.s003.pdf


Files (2.7 MB)
Name Size Download all
208.4 kB Preview Download
2.2 MB Preview Download
192.2 kB Preview Download
45.3 kB Preview Download

Additional details

August 19, 2023
October 20, 2023