March 5, 2021

Initial experience has lasting effect on repeated risky decisions

Primarily encountered information has been shown to influence perceptual and memory processes. However, it has been scarcely investigated how initial risk probabilities influence subsequent risk-taking behavior in an environment with repeated decisions. Therefore, the present study tested in two experiments whether young adults adjusted their choice behavior in the Balloon Analogue Risk task after an unsignaled and unexpected change point. The change point separated early trials from subsequent ones. While mostly positive (more reward) or mostly negative (no reward) events characterized early trials, subsequent trials were unbiased. In Experiment 1, the change point occurred after one-sixth or one-third of the trials without intermittence whereas in Experiment 2, it occurred between separate task phases. In Experiment 1, if negative events characterized the early trials, after the change point, risk-taking behavior increased as compared with the early trials. Conversely, if positive events characterized the early trials, risk-taking behavior decreased after the change point. Although participants shifted their choice behavior, the difference in risk taking due to initial experience remained, especially when this experience involved only one-sixth of the trials. In Experiment 2, slower adjustment of risk-taking behavior was observed after initially experiencing negative events than positive or baseline events. However, as all participants overcame the effect of initial experience, they became more prone to take risks. Altogether, results of both experiments not only suggest the profound effect of early experience but also that individuals dynamically update their risk estimates to adapt to the continuously changing environment.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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