Title page for ETD etd-08172010-202738

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Rowland, Jared A
Author's Email Address jarowlan@vt.edu
URN etd-08172010-202738
Title The Effect of Frontal Lobe Stress on Gambling Task Performance: Implications for Understanding Addictive Behavior
Degree PhD
Department Psychology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Stephens, Robert S. Committee Chair
Bell, Martha Ann Committee Member
Clum, George A. Jr. Committee Member
Harrison, David W. Committee Member
  • Decision Making
  • Substance abuse
  • Working Memory
  • Reversal Learning
Date of Defense 2010-08-10
Availability restricted
Substance-abusing individuals have been shown to perform poorer on decision-making tasks than non-substance abusing individuals (e.g. Bechara et al., 2001; Grant, Contoreggi, & London, 2000; Sanfey, Loewenstein, McClure, & Cohen, 2006). Research suggests that this difference in performance is likely due to cognitive deficits resulting from impaired functioning of the frontal lobes. Previous research suggests that two important cognitive processes regarding decision making are reversal learning (e.g. Fellows and Farah, 2005) and working memory (e.g. Hinson, Jameson, and Whitney, 2002; Jameson, Hinson, and Whitney, 2004). The purpose of the current research project was to better understand how these processes affect performance on a decision making task and to determine if a previously administered executive stressor can impact current decision making performance. One hundred thirty six individuals categorized as having either high or low working memory functioning were randomly assigned to complete one of three modified Stroop tasks (Stressor, Priming, and Control). Following completion of the modified Stroop task participants completed the Iowa Gambling Task, which is a task requiring appropriate decision making skills to complete successfully.

Statistical analyses examining the quantity and frequency of cards drawn from each deck during the IGT suggested that there was no difference in performance between individuals receiving different modified Stroop tasks or high or low working memory functioning. Analyses examining the monetary outcome of performance on the IGT suggest that there may have been no differential effect between the Stressor and Priming groups, but that these active groups may

have performed differently than the Control group. Within the Low working memory block, participants in these active groups may have performed worse than Control group participants, but within the High working memory block participants in these active groups may have performed better than Control group participants. These findings are discussed with regards to previous similar investigations as well as within the broader literature of decision making. Limitations of the current study as well as implications for future investigations are also discussed.

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