Anxious individuals are less risky, moderated by higher control when making decisions

New research shows that highly anxious individuals exert more cognitive control when they make a risky decision compared with less anxious individuals. This in turn leads to less risky decisions.

For the Psychophysiology study, 20 high and 20 low anxious individuals played a risk game while investigators recorded their brain responses via electroencephalogram. The researchers found higher frontal midline theta power in highly anxious individuals during their decisions, which indicates more cognitive control. Higher frontal midline theta power in turn predicted less risky choices.

"We showed that high anxious individuals also perceived risky situations as riskier, which is in line with the higher amount of cognitive control during their risk choices in the game. Obviously, they try to avoid negative outcomes," said lead author Dr. Barbara Schmidt of the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena in Germany. "Our study provides a direct link between anxiety, frontal midline theta power, and risky decisions. That is exciting, as it means that frontal midline theta power directly affects behavior."

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Full Citation

"Anxious gambling: Anxiety is associated with higher frontal midline theta predicting less risky decisions." Barbara Schmidt, Hannah Kanis, Clay B. Holroyd, Wolfgang H. R. Miltner and Johannes Hewig. Psychophysiology; Published Online: June 20, 2018. (DOI: 10.1111/psyp.13210).

URL Upon Publication: https://doi.org/10.1111/psyp.13210

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