Asymmetry of Gains and Losses: Behavioral and Electrophysiological Measures

Diego Gonzalo Flores

Brigham Young University

The purpose of this research was to explore the effects of small monetary or economic gains and/or losses on choice behaviour through the use of a computerized game and to determine gain/loss ratio differences using both behavioural and electrophysiological measures. Participants (N=53) played the game in several 36-minute sessions. These sessions operated with concurrent variable-interval schedules for both rewards and penalties. Previously, asymmetrical effects of gains and losses have been identified through cognitive studies, primarily due to the work of nobel laureates Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky (1979). They found that the effect of a loss is twice (i.e., 2:1) that of a gain. Similar results have been observed in the behavioural laboratory as exemplified by the research of Rasmussen and Newland (2008), who found a 3:1 ratio for the effect of losses versus gains. The asymmetry of gains and losses was estimated behaviorally and through event-related brain potentials (ERPs) and the cognitive (Kahneman and Tversky) and behavioural (Rasmussen and Newland) discrepancy elucidated.

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