Journal Article

Skin Conductance Responses in Anticipation of Gains and Losses


  • Schmidt
  • U.
  • Ring
  • P.
Publication Date

It has been observed that in a variety of tasks, losses have a larger impact on behavior than do gains of equal size. This phenomenon is referred to as loss aversion. It is thought that the negativity bias in behavior is reflected in and potentially causally related to a negativity bias in emotional arousal. We examine skin conductance responses -- a psychophysiological marker for emotional arousal -- during the anticipation of gains and losses. In contrast to most previous research, gains and losses were separated from each other and symmetric in magnitude. We found that skin conductance responses during the anticipation phase increased with the magnitude of both gains and losses. Contrary to the predictions of the loss aversion hypothesis, the anticipation of a loss did not elicit stronger reactions than the anticipation of a gain of equal size.

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JEL Classification
D81; D87, C91

Key Words

  • anticipation
  • gains and losses
  • loss aversion
  • Skin conductance responses

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