Examining the choice behaviour of sensation seekers using concurrent schedules

by Nicholas Peter Farrelly

Institution: University of Otago
Year: 0
Keywords: Sensation seeking; Concurrent choice; Personality; Risk taking; Slot machine
Record ID: 1307145
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/4997


The risky choices of high sensation seekers can have serious consequences. However, the choice behaviour of this population is not often subjected to the experimental analysis of behaviour. The current research examined the choice behaviour of sensation seekers in concurrent schedules using slot-machine-like games on a computer. In Experiment 1, university students could choose between two games that varied in response cost, reinforcer magnitude, and reinforcer frequency. High sensation seeking students, particularly males, tended to prefer the game that provided the larger reward, even though it cost more to play and paid out less frequently. In other words, high sensation seekers were less affected by the response cost, and preferred the option that involved more risk. A similar procedure was used in Experiment 2, which examined choice when there were intermittent losses rather than a response cost. It also arranged “Double or Quits” or “Stay” options following wins and losses. Results showed that high sensation seekers did not prefer the game that paid larger rewards infrequently when there was no response cost for that game, and did not find losses as aversive as low sensation seekers. Regardless of sensation seeking level, participants increasingly preferred the safe option as they approached the end of the task. Overall, the current study provides preliminary evidence that personality traits, such as sensation seeking, influence choice in concurrent schedules. Future research should systematically examine how personality types and personality traits are manifested behaviourally, especially in populations that have a propensity to make risky decisions.