An Integrative Process Approach on Judgment and Decision Making: The Impact of Arousal, Affect, Motivation, and Cognitive Ability

By Roets, Arne; Van Hicl, Alain | The Psychological Record, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview

An Integrative Process Approach on Judgment and Decision Making: The Impact of Arousal, Affect, Motivation, and Cognitive Ability


Roets, Arne, Van Hicl, Alain, The Psychological Record


Human judgment and decision making has attracted considerable research attention in various disciplines within psychology. The term decision making generates over 25,000 hits in the Social Sciences Citation Index for the last 30 years in the psychological research domain, with an exponential increase in publications during the last decade. Numerous models and theories have been formulated in this broad domain, and recently, the need to integrate this flood of different perspectives has become a very prominent issue in the literature. In the past few years, various authors have made valuable contributions to construct broad models of judgment and decision making that integrate a number of research lines without claiming to be alMnclusive (e.g., Deutsch & Strack, 2006; Forgas, 1995; Kruglanski, Erb, Pierro, Mannetti, & Chun, 2006; Kruglanski, Pierro, Mannetti, Erb, & Chun, 2007; Sherman, 2006). The present article aims to contribute to this quest for integration by developing an overview perspective that incorporates several broad but complementary research traditions that have focused on "within-individual" influences on decision making and judgment.

Within the vast literature on human decision making and judgment, different research traditions have addressed the influence of arousal, cognitive ability, motivation, and affect. Early theorizing and research (e.g., Yerkes & Dodson, 1908; Easterbrook, 1959) demonstrated the impact of arousal but also paved the way for more recent perspectives on decision making that emphasize cognitive capacity/ability (for an overview, see Staal, 2004), motivation (e.g., Kruglanski & Webster, 1996), and affect (e.g., Bodenhausen, Kramer, & Susser, 1994; Forgas, 1995). However, the absence of a general, conceptual synthesis of the well-established impact of these four key variables is remarkable. Thus, we explicitly aimed to provide a broad perspective that incorporates the four different process variables in decision making, with a strong focus on the relationships and the interplay among these processes. Our goal was to provide a general framework that integrates and extends existing ideas on decision making, yielding a more global understanding of its complex, underlying mechanisms.

We first briefly review the four research traditions, each stressing a different, specific process as a key determinant of decision making (i.e., arousal, ability, motivation, and affect). Next, we consider the theoretical commonalities and considerable (although fragmented) empirical evidence of connections between these different process variables in order to reach a single, comprehensive framework. In the discussion of this framework, we stress the importance of an integrative perspective that includes multiple direct and indirect links between the process variables to explain human decision making, and we identify some promising avenues for future research.

Classical Theories on Performance: Focus on Arousal

Throughout decades of psychological research, several prominent scholars (e.g., Broadhurst, 1957; Hull, 1943; Yerkes & Dodson, 1908) have argued that arousal is a key operator in determining performance and information processing. The Yerkes-Dodson law, represented by the famous inverted U graphic, is probably the best known theory on how arousal affects performance. This law states that moderate levels of arousal result in optimal performance, whereas levels that are too low or too high degrade performance. Many authors have further explored the relationship between arousal and performance (e.g., Broadhurst, 1957; Easterbrook, 1959; Duffy, 1957; Hebb, 1955; Selye, 1956), and alternative models have been proposed (e.g., drive theory; Hull, 1943; Spence, 1951).

Several scholars have also addressed the underlying processes that may account for the effect of arousal on decision making. For example, using epinephrine and methamphetarnine injections as manipulations of arousal, Callaway (1959) demonstrated the detrimental effect of high arousal on information processing in decision making. …

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