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Are Impulsive Decisions Always Irrational? An Experimental Investigation of Impulsive Decisions in the Domains of Gains and Losses


Abstract: Intertemporal choices are very prevalent in daily life, ranging from simple, mundane decisions to highly consequential decisions. In this context, thinking about the future and making sound decisions are crucial to promoting mental and physical health, as well as a financially sustainable lifestyle. In the present study, we set out to investigate some of the possible underlying mechanisms, such as cognitive factors and emotional states, that promote future-oriented decisions. In a cross-sectional experimental study, we used a gain and a loss version of an intertemporal monetary choices task. Our main behavioural result indicated that people are substantially more impulsive over smaller and sooner monetary losses compared to equivalent gains. In addition, for both decisional domains, significant individual difference predictors emerged, indicating that intertemporal choices are sensitive to the affective and cognitive parameters. By focusing on the cognitive and emotional individual factors that influence impulsive decisions, our study could constitute a building block for successful future intervention programs targeted at mental and physical health issues, including gambling behaviour.
Keywords: impulsivity / decisional domain / losses / individual predictors / delay discounting

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