Reacting to Perceived High- and Low-Risk Win–Lose Opportunities in a Risky Decision-Making Task: Is It Framing or Affect or Both?1

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Affect research has suggested that in high-risk situations, a positive mood often results in an enhanced sensitivity to losses, leading to strong risk-averse behavior relative to neutral or negative mood, but when a situation is seen as being low risk, a reversal occurs and positive affect will often result in more risk-seeking behavior. It was hypothesized that the simple “framing” of a gambling task to emphasize either potential gains or potential losses could act as an affect inducer and would produce similar results. In Experiment 1 the effects of an induced positive or negative affective state on risk-taking behavior in a gambling task were examined. Results replicated the risk-averse/risk-seeking reversal phenomenon described above. In Experiment 2 the affect conditions were replaced with a simple Winning vs. Losing framing manipulation where an instructional emphasis was placed either on accumulating points or avoiding the loss of points. Results demonstrated that a reversal pattern in risk taking like that found in Experiment 1 for affect could also be obtained via this simple framing manipulation. An affective-cognitive model of pre-choice framing and a theoretical link between the effects of framing and the effects of mood manipulation based on mood management theory are presented and discussed.

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