Decision Making Competence

In recent work I have looked measures of, and predictors for,  decision-making competence. The initial results of this self-report based research can be found here.

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Working Memory Training – Impact on Intelligence (G) & Cognitive Biases

In these intervention studies, we are looking at the impact of a working memory (dual n-back) training intervention on psychometric G (general intelligence) and its subfactors and cognitive biases that are both correlated and uncorrelated with psychometric G.

For details of experiments click here.

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Game Theory, Cooperation vs Competition and Mind Reading

This ongoing set of experiments  investigated the relationship between individual differences in (i) mindreading (‘theory of mind’); (ii) competition and cooperation biases measured in game-theory games (e.g. Prisoner’s Dilemma); and (iii) in-group vs out-group interactions.

For details of this research click here.

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Normativity in Cognitive Development

Baumeister and colleagues’ 2008 review  of emotion concludes with the statement that conscious emotion evolved to steer individuals’ “use of an advanced cognitive apparatus for figuring out how to negotiate their way through the unique, remarkable opportunities and pitfalls of…intricate social and cultural systems” (p. 198). An emphasis on cultural-normative complexities is also emphasized by Damasio and colleagues, who stress the critical importance of emotions to the function of decision making in the context of the “personal, financial and moral” domains (Damasio, 1994) – all areas strongly regulated by social norms and normative standards of ‘appropriate’ or ‘correct’ behaviour.

Definition of normative: evaluative, denoting or implying goodness, desirability, what ought to be. lf, pertaining to, or using a norm or standard.

In these studies I am looking at the underlying factorial structure of normative evaluations, and charting their development.

For details of experiments click here.

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Normative (Evaluative) Priming

The factor and principle components analysis that underlie the dimensions used by ANEW (Affective Norms for English Norms) and TUDADEN (Turkish version of ANEW) – are based on participants’ subjective feelings in response to the stimulus words, and to this extent the measured emotion involves highly processed stimuli. More highly processed emotional responses such as evaluation may thus be expected to interact with (and be confounded with) simple valence as a basic pleasure or pain dimension which may be expected to be more automatic, fast acting and unconscious – according to the dual process account.

Thus 3 dimensional – valence, arousal and control – account of emotion may thus be misleading. Simple valence of stimuli, on this view, may be confounded with normative evaluations.

For details of experiments click here.

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Subliminal Affective Priming of Motivation Mechanisms

In a widely cited and theoretically provocative paper on ‘unconscious affect’, Winkielman, Berridge & Willbarger (2005) investigated  the influence of subliminally presented happy or  angry face primes on (i) the amounts of pouring and consumption of a sweet beverage, (ii) the perception of the beverage’s value and (iii) reports of conscious feelings during the experiment.  Results indicated there was a strong effect of subliminal primes on beverage consumption. Thirsty participants poured more than twice the amount of the beverage after happy primes than angry primes, and after pouring, they drank 171% more of the beverage after happy primes than after angry primes. Despite the large impact of the affective primes on thirsty participants, there were no observed differences in mood or arousal ratings before and after priming: subjective experience did not change.

For details of experiments click here.

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Affective Priming: Valence & Arousal

The role of arousal in automatic affective priming effects is not clearly understood, and has not been systematically investigated. All existing affective priming studies do not control for the arousal dimension of emotion. Does a stimulus have to be intrinsically arousing to elicit affective priming effects (e.g. a laughing face) – consistent with the Somatic Marker hypothesis – or can a stimulus that is high in valence but low in arousal (e.g. sun bathing) also elicit affective priming, consistent with the evidence for dissociations of central nucleus and basolateral nucleus amygdala activation?

For details of experiments click here.

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