Journal Article

The Framing Effect and Skin Conductance Responses

Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 9, 188

Individuals often rely on simple heuristics when they face complex choice situations under uncertainty. Traditionally, it has been proposed that cognitive processes are the main driver to evaluate different choice options and finally to reach a decision. Growing evidence, however, highlights a strong interrelation between judgment and decision-making (JDM) on the one hand, and emotional processes on the other hand. This also seems to apply to judgmental heuristics, i.e. decision-processes that are typically considered to be fast and intuitive. In this study, participants are exposed to different probabilities of receiving an unpleasant electric shock. Information about electric shock probabilities is either positively or negatively framed. Integrated skin conductance responses (ISCRs) while waiting for electric shock realization are used as an indicator for participants' emotional arousal. This measure is compared to objective probabilities. I find evidence for a relation between emotional body reactions measured by ISCRs and the framing effect. Under negative frames, participants show significantly higher ISCRs while waiting for an electric shock to be delivered than under positive frames. This result might contribute to a better understanding of the psychological processes underlying JDM. Further studies are necessary to reveal the causality underlying this finding, i.e. whether emotional processes influence JDM or vice versa.