Affective and deliberative processes in risky choice: age differences in risk taking in the Columbia Card Task

J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2009 May;35(3):709-30. doi: 10.1037/a0014983.


The authors investigated risk taking and underlying information use in 13- to 16- and 17- to 19-year-old adolescents and in adults in 4 experiments, using a novel dynamic risk-taking task, the Columbia Card Task (CCT). The authors investigated risk taking under differential involvement of affective versus deliberative processes with 2 versions of the CCT, constituting the most direct test of a dual-system explanation of adolescent risk taking in the literature so far. The "hot" CCT was designed to trigger more affective decision making, whereas the "cold" CCT was designed to trigger more deliberative decision making. Differential involvement of affective versus deliberative processes in the 2 CCT versions was established by self-reports and assessment of electrodermal activity. Increased adolescent risk taking, coupled with simplified information use, was found in the hot but not the cold condition. Need-for-arousal predicted risk taking only in the hot condition, whereas executive functions predicted information use in the cold condition. Results are consistent with recent dual-system explanations of risk taking as the result of competition between affective processes and deliberative cognitive-control processes, with adolescents' affective system tending to override the deliberative system in states of heightened emotional arousal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Arousal
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Cues
  • Decision Making*
  • Feedback, Psychological
  • Female
  • Gambling / psychology
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Middle Aged
  • Problem Solving
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Volition*
  • Young Adult