Poster F131, Tuesday, March 28, 8:00 – 10:00 am, Pacific Concourse
Changes in information integration strategy in multi-cue probabilistic reasoning under anticipatory anxiety induced by threat-of-shock
Hanna Oh1, Hitomi Tanaka1, Jeffrey Beck1, Kevin LaBar1, Tobias Egner1; 1Duke University
Anticipating a negative event typically provokes anxiety, which has been shown to affect attention, memory and simple decisions. However, it is not known how anticipatory anxiety affects the more complex decision-making we face in everyday life, where we need to integrate multiple pieces of uncertain information. Here, we combined a threat-of-shock manipulation with a multi-cue probabilistic classification task. On each trial, participants saw two compound stimuli consisting of combinations of four binary cues and had to predict the stimulus that is likely to “win”, as quantified by the combined weights of the cues, which had to be learned via probabilistic feedback. Following an initial learning period, participants performed two successive post-learning phases, a neutral and a threat-of-shock phase, during which participants experienced five randomly occurring unpleasant shocks. Skin conductance level (SCL) was recorded to objectively assess the efficacy of the anxiety induction procedure, and to group participants into low and high threat-responsive groups. We then employed variational Bayesian inference to characterize group-level changes in cue usage under threat. Specifically, we compared all possible combinations of cue usage to identify the most likely strategy that participants adopted. Results show that, during the neutral phase, both groups of participants integrated all available cues in a near-optimal manner. Under threat-of-shock, the low threat-response group showed no change in strategy, but the high threat-response participants dropped the weakest cue from their decision making process. These findings suggest that, to cope with heightened anxiety, people engage in selective information integration in line with satisficing heuristics.
Topic Area: THINKING: Decision making