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Poster E145

The influence of insight on risky decision making and nucleus accumbens activation

Poster Session E - Monday, April 15, 2024, 2:30 – 4:30 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC
Also presenting in Data Blitz Session 4 - Saturday, April 13, 2024, 1:00 – 2:30 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall EF.

Dr. Maxi Becker1 (, Dr. Yuhua Yu, Dr. Roberto Cabeza; 1Humboldt University Berlin, 2North Western University, 3Duke University

During insightful problem solving, the solution appears unexpectedly and is accompanied by the feeling of an AHA!. Research suggests that this affective component of insight can have consequences beyond the solution itself by motivating future behavior, such as risky (high reward and high uncertainty) decision making. Here, we investigate the behavioral and neural support for the motivational role of AHA in decision making involving monetary choices. The positive affect of the AHA! experience has been linked to internal reward. Reward in turn has been linked to dopaminergic signal transmission in the Nucleus Accumbens (NAcc) and risky decision making. Therefore, we hypothesized that insight activates reward-related brain areas, modulating risky decision making. We tested this hypothesis in two studies. First, in a pre-registered online study (Study 1), we demonstrated the behavioral effect of insight-related increase in risky decision making using a visual Mooney identification paradigm. Participants were more likely to choose the riskier monetary payout when they had previously solved the Mooney image with high compared to low accompanied AHA!. Second, in an fMRI study (Study 2), we measured the effects of insight on NAcc activity using a similar Mooney identification paradigm to the one of Study 1. Greater NAcc activity was found when participants solved the Mooney image with high vs low AHA!. Taken together, our results link insight to enhanced NAcc activity and a preference for high but uncertain rewards, suggesting that insight enhances reward-related brain areas possibly via dopaminergic signal transmission, promoting risky decision making.

Topic Area: THINKING: Problem solving


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April 13–16  |  2024