The purpose of this research was to explore the effects of small monetary or economic gains and/or losses on choice behavior through the use of a computerized game and to determine gain/loss ratio differences using both behavioral 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 behavioral 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 behavioral (Rasmussen and Newland) discrepancy elucidated. In the game, the player moves an animated submarine around sea rocks to collect yellow coins and other treasures on the sea floor. Upon collecting a coin, one of three things can happen: The player triggers a penalty (loss), the player triggers a payoff (gain), or there is no change. The behavioral measures consisted in counting the number of clicks, reinforces, and punishers and then determining ratio differences between punished (loss) and no punished condition (gain) conditions. The obtained gain/loss ratio corresponded to an asymmetry of 2:1. Similarly ratio differences were found between male and female, virtual money and cash, risk averse versus risk seeking, and generosity versus profit behavior. Also, no ratio difference was found when players receive information about other player's performances in the game (players with information versus players without information). In electroencephalographic (EEG) studies, visual evoked potentials (VEPs) and ERPs components (e.g., P300) were examined. I found increased ERP amplitudes for the losses in relation to the gains that corresponded to the calculated behavioral asymmetry of 2:1. A correlational strategy was adopted that sought to identify neural correlates of choice consistent with cognitive and behavioral approaches. In addition, electro cortical ratio differences were observed between different sets of electrodes that corresponded to the front, middle, and back sections of the brain; differences between sessions, risk averse and risk seeking behavior and sessions with concurrent visual and auditory stimuli and only visual were also estimated.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Psychology



Date Submitted


Document Type





Prospect theory, video game, concurrent variable-interval schedule, gain (reinforcer), loss (punisher), gain/loss asymmetry, P300, event-related potential (ERP), Emotiv Epoc, risk aversion, loss aversion, risk tolerance, coin dispenser, waveform



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Psychology Commons