Date of Award

8-2018

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Anthony DeFulio

Second Advisor

Dr. Bradley Huitema

Third Advisor

Dr. Alan Poling

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Scott Gaynor

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access

Abstract

Accurate assessment of risk propensity is important because risky choices underlie a broad range of behavioral problems. The Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART) is an assessment that measures propensity to engage in risky choice. While this is a useful assessment, the BART changes two variables that affect risky choice simultaneously, probability of an undesirable outcome and stake size, which cannot be separated within the context of the BART. The goal of this study was to evaluate the separate and combined effects of key factors that are likely to risky choice (Magnitude of payoff, probability of an undesirable outcome, and stake size) in the context of a new analog to risky choice: The Wheel of Choice Task. Adults between the ages of 18 and 25 (N = 23) were recruited to participate in this study. On each trial, participants chose between spinning the wheel or collecting their earnings. Spinning could result in a payoff or a loss of earnings, and as such constituted a risky choice. Risky choices increased as the probability of bankruptcy decreased, as the magnitude of reinforcement for the risky choice increased, and as stake size decreased. Effects of all three independent variables were systematic and robust. In addition to the main effects, interaction effects were observed between probability of a bankruptcy and magnitude, magnitude and stake size, and between all three variables, indicating complex but systematic interplay between these powerful determinants of risky choice. Future directions for this line of research include a further parametric analysis of stake size as well as the Wheel of Choice task’s utility as a clinical or experimental tool.

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