Among three different executive functions, general executive control ability is a key predictor of decision making under objective risk

Schiebener, Johannes LSF; Wegmann, Elisa LSF; Gathmann, Bettina; Laier, Christian LSF; Pawlikowski, Mirko; Brand, Matthias LSF

Executive functioning is supposed to have an important role in decision making under risk. Several studies reported that more advantageous decision-making behavior was accompanied by better performance in tests of executive functioning and that the decision-making process was accompanied by activations in prefrontal and subcortical brain regions associated with executive functioning. However, to what extent different components of executive functions contribute to decision making is still unclear. We tested direct and indirect effects of three executive functions on decision-making performance in a laboratory gambling task, the Game of Dice Task (GDT). Using Brand's model of decisions under risk (2006) we tested seven structural equation models with three latent variables that represent executive functions supposed to be involved in decision making. The latent variables were general control (represented by the general ability to exert attentional and behavioral self-control that is in accordance with task goals despite interfering information), concept formation (represented by categorization, rule detection, and set maintenance), and monitoring (represented by supervision of cognition and behavior). The seven models indicated that only the latent dimension general control had a direct effect on decision making under risk. Concept formation and monitoring only contributed in terms of indirect effects, when mediated by general control. Thus, several components of executive functioning seem to be involved in decision making under risk. However, general control functions seem to have a key role. They may be important for implementing the calculative and cognitively controlled processes involved in advantageous decision making under risk.

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Schiebener, J., Wegmann, E., Gathmann, B., Laier, C., Pawlikowski, M., Brand, M., 2016. Among three different executive functions, general executive control ability is a key predictor of decision making under objective risk. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01386
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