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Social distance modulates the process of uncertain decision-making: evidence from event-related potentials

Authors Guo H, Song H, Liu Y, Xu K, Shen H

Received 2 April 2019

Accepted for publication 30 July 2019

Published 21 August 2019 Volume 2019:12 Pages 701—714


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Igor Elman

Huan Guo, Hang Song, Yuanyuan Liu, Kai Xu, Heyong Shen

School of Psychology, South China Normal University, Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China

Correspondence:Heyong Shen 55 West Zhongshan Avenue, Tianhe District, Guangzhou 510631, People’s Republic of China
Tel +86 186 6566 1009

Purpose: Social distance affects risk perception in uncertain decision-making, but how this effect works and the mechanism of how social distance influences the early processing stages of uncertain decision-making are still unclear. This investigation aimed to explore how social distance influences risk-taking during uncertain decision-making using the Iowa Gambling Task with recording of event-related potentials.
Methods: A total of 57 healthy subjects (36 female) participated in the modified single-choice Iowa Gambling Task when they gambled based on three quantified social distances (self, friend, and stranger). The social distance between participant and beneficiary was quantified on a scale of 0–100 points, with 0 representing self, 5 representing a close friend, and 100 representing a stranger.
Results: Three stages of uncertain decision-making were analyzed. Behavioral results showed that social distance worked interactively with choice frame, and high social distance made people choose a more advantageous deck and a less disadvantageous deck than low social distance. The P300 in the choice-evaluation stage, which reflects stimulus discrimination, directly proved this result by showing that gambling for a stranger caused higher P300 when evaluating an advantageous deck and lower P300 when evaluating a disadvantageous deck than for others. Decision preceding negativity in the response-selection stage represents the anticipation of risky choices: this was larger with high social distance when choosing a disadvantageous deck. Feedback-related negativity and feedback-related P300 had motivational significance, showing smaller amplitudes when gambling for a stranger than for oneself.
Conclusion: These results provide evidence that social distance works interactively with choice frames of uncertain decision-making. People at high social distance are more risk-taking in an advantageous frame and more risk-avoid ant in a disadvantageous frame.

Keywords: uncertain decision-making, social distance, risk-taking, Iowa Gambling Task, event-related potential, ERP

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