Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 04 October 2011 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00213

Effects of outcomes and random arbitration on emotions in a competitive gambling task

Benoit Bediou1,2*, Christelle Mohri1, Jeremy Lack3 and David Sander1,2
  • 1 Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
  • 2 Laboratory for the study of Emotion Elicitation and Expression, Department of Psychology, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
  • 3 Neuroawareness, Lawtech, Geneva, Switzerland

Research on self-serving biases in judgments and decision-making suggests that individuals first evaluate the outcomes they get, and then the procedures by which these outcomes were obtained. Evidence also suggests that the appraisal of the former (outcome favorability) can bias the appraisal of the latter (procedural fairness). We investigated the nature of the emotions that are elicited by these appraisals by using a new paradigm in which participants performed a choice task between pairs of competing gambles against a virtual opponent. Conflicts (when the participant selected the same gamble as his virtual opponent) were resolved by a neutral arbitrator who either confirmed the participant’s choice (“pro-self”) or attributed his gamble to the virtual opponent (“pro-competitor”). Trials in which the participant and his virtual opponent selected different gambles (“no-conflict”) served as a control condition. In order to validate this new task, emotional reactions to the outcomes of the gambles were measured using self-reports, skin conductance responses, and facial electromyography (zygomaticus, corrugator, and frontalis). In no-conflict trials, effects of counterfactual thinking and social comparison resulted in (i) increased happiness as well as SCR and zygomaticus activity for wins compared to losses (valence effect) and for high compared to low gains (magnitude effect), and (ii) increased anger, regret, disappointment, and envy for losses compared to wins (valence effect). More importantly, compared to no-conflict trials and to pro-self awards with similar outcomes, pro-competitor awards increased subjective reports of anger for unfavorable outcomes, and increased happiness and guilt for favorable outcomes. Although the outcomes were independent from the arbitrators’ decisions, and both the arbitrators’ decisions and the outcomes were kept equally likely, individuals tended to attribute their outcomes to unfair arbitrators, reacting emotionally, especially when the modification of their initial choice for a gamble led to a negative outcome.

Keywords: conflict, arbitration, emotion, appraisals, procedural justice, distributive justice, outcome favorability, self-serving bias

Citation: Bediou B, Mohri C, Lack J and Sander D (2011) Effects of outcomes and random arbitration on emotions in a competitive gambling task. Front. Psychology 2:213. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00213

Received: 09 June 2011; Accepted: 17 August 2011;
Published online: 04 October 2011.

Edited by:

Jack van Honk, Utrecht University, Netherlands

Reviewed by:

Barak Morgan, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Peter A. Bos, Utrecht University, Netherlands

Copyright: © 2011 Bediou, Mohri, Lack and Sander. This is an open-access article subject to a non-exclusive license between the authors and Frontiers Media SA, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and other Frontiers conditions are complied with.

*Correspondence: Benoit Bediou, Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences, University of Geneva, 7 rue des Battoirs, CH-1205 Geneva, Switzerland. e-mail: benoit.bediou@unige.ch

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