Theses Doctoral

The Effect of Motivational and Personality Traits on Decision Behavior in the Sampling Paradigm

Al Alamy, Lujain Fawaz

Previous research in regulatory focus theory and regulatory fit (Higgins, 1997, 2000) has identified two primary orientations and preferred means that people employ in-pursuit of a desired outcome. Promotion focus use eagerness means to approach gains, while prevention focus use vigilance means to avoid losses. These established theories have contributed to our understanding of individual-level differences in various description-based decision tasks, where people learn about choice outcomes through explicit descriptions (Hertwig, Barron, Weber, & Erev, 2004). The primary purpose of this dissertation was to examine the effect of ‘trait-level’ regulatory focus and regulatory fit on decision behavior in a decisions-from-experience task, where choice outcomes are unknown and can only be learned through experience. Specifically, the present studies examine decision behavior in the sampling paradigm (Hertwig et al., 2004; Weber, Shafir, & Blais, 2004), where participants may sample outcomes from the presented decision options before making a consequential decision. In the reported studies, individual differences in regulatory focus orientation were predicted to influence decision behavior (i.e., sampled outcomes and risky choices) above and beyond other relevant dispositional variables, specifically, financial risk tolerance and broad (Big-5) personality traits. Decision behavior was expected to vary by motivational orientation and by its interaction with choice domain (i.e., gain vs. loss problems). A secondary purpose was to examine the effect of financial risk tolerance on risky choices, as well as to explore the relationships between broad personality traits and decision behavior. Three studies (pilot and two main) were conducted. In each study, participants were given a set of four questionnaires and participated in an interactive computer-based (sampling paradigm) game. Because of data quality concerns with the pilot study and Study 1, the interpretations rely on the results from Study 2. Study 2 found trait-level regulatory fit to significantly predict participants’ exploratory (i.e., sampling) behavior. Moreover, Study 2 provided evidence that the frequency of risky choices varied by risk tolerance level. The theoretical implications for regulatory focus orientation and experience-based decision behavior are discussed, and potential avenues for future research are proposed.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Cognitive Studies in Education
Thesis Advisors
Corter, James E.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 13, 2020