Psychology (B.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Ty W. Boyer


When making decisions, most people tend to avoid uncertain outcomes or risks. However, individual differences, such as optimism versus pessimism and liberalism versus conservatism, may lead to variable approaches and outcomes in the decision-making process. Thus, the goal of this research is to examine individual differences in decision-making preferences and whether these associate with personality characteristics (i.e., optimism/pessimism and conservative/liberal views). To test this, the current study involves a probabilistic gambling task, adapted from behavioral judgment and decision-making research. Participants are shown “wheel-of-fortune-like” spinner wheel stimuli divided into green, red, and gray sections. The relative proportion of each color represents the respective probability of a win, loss, or no change in a bank of points, and participants’ task is to choose between two simultaneously presented wheels. In a key set of trials, participants are presented with truly ambiguous choices, in which the relative win-to-loss ratios are objectively identical, though the likelihood of neutral outcomes vary. In addition, participants complete the Revised Life Orientation Test, which measures optimistic versus pessimistic views, and the Liberal-Conservative Self-Report Scale.