Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Sandra L. Schneider, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Vicky Phares, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Geoff Potts, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kristen Salomon, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brent Small, Ph.D.


Affect, Risk-taking, Numeracy, Probability Insensitivity, Outcome Comparability, Outcome Precision


Real life decision-making frequently involves some level of affect, and research has demonstrated that individuals decide differently when outcomes are more or less rich with feeling. This difference in choice has previously been attributed to probability insensitivity in the presence of affect. In a series of three studies, we explored this possibility, while also testing alternative explanations, namely, that differences exist because of outcome characteristics such as comparability or precision. Individuals made choices between affect-rich side effects and affect-poor monetary lotteries in either a strictly numeric format, or with the addition of an icon array. Across the three studies we found little evidence that the icon array was beneficial, casting doubt on the previous explanation that differences in affect-rich and affect-poor choice are due to probability insensitivity. Contrary to our predictions, we did not find evidence that differences in choice could be attributed to outcome comparability, as there continued to be decrements in affect-rich choice, despite making affect-rich outcomes more comparable. As predicted, when precision in each affective context was better equated by describing monetary outcomes in less precise terms, the difference in affect-rich and affect-poor choice disappeared. It appears that it is difficult to choose well when outcomes are vague, which we suggest is potentially the result of a challenge integrating probability and outcome information. This research is a first step in providing a viable explanation for the “affect gap” and contributes to our understanding of how and why affect-rich and affect-poor choice may differ.

Included in

Psychology Commons