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Risk choice and emotional experience: a multi-level comparison between active and passive decision-making


Previous studies have consistently indicated the important role of emotional experience in decision-making. While both active and passive decision-making coexist in our daily lives, whether and how active and passive decision-making induce different emotional experience remains unclear. In the present research we conduct three studies to examine differences in emotional experience associated with active and passive decisions at multiple levels. First, at the individual level, using both active and passive modes of the Balloon Analog Risk Task in a laboratory behavior study, we demonstrate that active decision-making is associated with more positive emotional experience compared to passive decision-making, including more happiness, less distress, a greater sense of control, and a stronger sense of achievement. Second, at the neural level, we use functional magnetic resonance imaging and find greater activation in the brain’s emotional circuits during active decisions compared to passive decisions, regardless of the decision outcomes. Finally, at the population level, we conduct a large-scale survey to capture the perception of emotional experience during real-world active and passive decisions, and our results confirm that active decisions engender a greater sense of achievement and sense of control and people prefer active decisions to passive decisions. These findings provide valuable insights into the role of emotion experience in decision-making research and practices.

Keywords: Active decision, passive decision, emotion, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), Balloon Analog Risk Task (BART)


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