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Previous experiments have found that subjecting participants to cognitive load leads to poorer decision making, consistent with dual-system models of behavior. Rather than taxing the cognitive system, this paper reports the results of an experiment that takes a complementary approach: arousing the emotional system. The results indicate that exposure to arousing visual stimuli as compared to neutral images has a negligible impact on performance in arithmetic tasks, impatience, risk taking in the domain of losses, and snack choice although we find that arousal modestly increases in risk-taking in the gains domain and increases susceptibility to anchoring effects. We find the effect of arousal on decision making to be smaller and less consistent then the effect of increased cognitive load for the same tasks.


Working Paper 16-02

This working paper was later published as:

Jahedi, S., Deck, C., & Ariely, D. (2017). Arousal and economic decision making. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 134, 165-189. doi: 10.1016/j.jebo.2016.10.008



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