Psychological Research

, Volume 75, Issue 3, pp 188–201 | Cite as

Recruitment of intuitive versus analytic thinking strategies affects the role of working memory in a gambling task

  • Marta Gozzi
  • Paolo Cherubini
  • Costanza Papagno
  • Emanuela Bricolo
Original Article


Previous studies found mixed results concerning the role of working memory (WM) in the gambling task (GT). Here, we aimed at reconciling inconsistencies by showing that the standard version of the task can be solved using intuitive strategies operating automatically, while more complex versions require analytic strategies drawing on executive functions. In Study 1, where good performance on the GT could be achieved using intuitive strategies, participants performed well both with and without a concurrent WM load. In Study 2, where analytical strategies were required to solve a more complex version of the GT, participants without WM load performed well, while participants with WM load performed poorly. In Study 3, where the complexity of the GT was further increased, participants in both conditions performed poorly. In addition to the standard performance measure, we used participants’ subjective expected utility, showing that it differs from the standard measure in some important aspects.


Rational Choice Working Memory Target Letter Working Memory Load Articulatory Suppression 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors thank Germano Rossi for his statistical help, and Simona Salomone, Giulia Mattavelli and Selenia Di Bari for their help in collecting the data. This study was supported by two FAR grants to PC and CP and by a PRIN 2005 grant to CP.


  1. Baddeley, A., & Della Sala, S. (1996). Working memory and executive control. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 351, 1397–1404.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barry, D., & Petry, N. M. (2008). Predictors of decision-making on the Iowa gambling task: Independent effects of lifetime history of substance use disorders and performance on the Trail Making Test. Brain and Cognition, 66, 243–252.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bechara, A., Damasio, A., Damasio, H., & Anderson, W. S. (1994). Insensitivity to future consequences following damage to human prefrontal cortex. Cognition, 50, 7–15.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bechara, A., Damasio, H., Tranel, D., & Anderson, W. S. (1998). Dissociation of working memory from decision making within the human prefrontal cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, 18, 426–437.Google Scholar
  5. Bechara, A., Tranel, D., & Damasio, H. (2000). Characterization of the decision-making deficit of patients with ventromedial prefrontal cortex lesions. Brain, 123, 2189–2202.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bowman, C. H., & Turnbull, O. H. (2003). Real vs. facsimile reinforcers on the Iowa gambling task. Brain and Cognition, 53, 207–210.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Buelow, M. T., & Suhr, J. A. (2009). Construct validity of the Iowa gambling task. Neuropsychology Review, 19, 102–114.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cavallaro, R., Cavedini, P., Mistretta, P., Bassi, T., Angelone, S. M., Ubbiali, A., et al. (2003). Basal-corticofrontal circuits in schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder: A controlled, double dissociation study. Biological Psychiatry, 54, 437–443.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cavedini, P., Riboldi, G., Keller, R., D’Annucci, A., & Bellodi, L. (2002). Frontal lobe dysfunction in pathological gambling patients. Biological Psychiatry, 51, 334–341.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cella, M., Dymond, S., Cooper, A., & Turnbull, O. (2007). Effects of decision-phase time constraints on emotion-based learning in the Iowa gambling task. Brain and Cognition, 64, 164–169.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chaiken, S., & Trope, Y. (Eds.). (1999). Dual process theories in social psychology. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  12. Clark, L., Manes, F., Antoun, N., Sahakian, B. J., & Robbins, T. W. (2003). The contributions of lesion laterality and lesion volume to decision-making impairment following frontal lobe damage. Neuropsychologia, 41, 1474–1483.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Damasio, A. R. (1996). The somatic marker hypothesis and the possible functions of the prefrontal cortex. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 351, 1413–1420.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. De Neys, W. (2006a). Automatic-heuristic and executive analytic processing during reasoning: Chronometric and dual task considerations. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 59, 1070–1100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. De Neys, W. (2006b). Dual processes in reasoning: Two systems but one reasoner. Psychological Science, 17, 428–433.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dijksterhuis, A., Bos, M. W., Nordgren, L. F., & van Baaren, R. B. (2006). On making the right choice: The deliberation-without-attention effect. Science, 311, 1005–1007.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dunn, B. D., Dalgleish, T., & Lawrence, A. D. (2006). The somatic marker hypothesis: A critical evaluation. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 30, 239–271.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Evans, J. St. B. T. (1984). Heuristic and analytic processes in reasoning. British Journal of Psychology, 75, 451–458.Google Scholar
  19. Evans, J. St. B. T. (1996). Deciding before you think: Relevance and reasoning in the selection task. British Journal of Psychology, 87, 223–240.Google Scholar
  20. Evans, C. E., Kemish, K., & Turnbull, O. H. (2004). Paradoxical effects of education on the Iowa gambling task. Brain and Cognition, 54, 240–244.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Evans, J. St. B. T., & Over, D. E. (1996). Rationality and reasoning. Hove: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  22. Fellows, L. K., & Farah, M. J. (2003). Ventromedial frontal cortex mediates affective shifting in humans: Evidence from a reversal learning paradigm. Brain, 126, 1830–1837.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fernie, G., & Tunney, R. J. (2006). Some decks are better than others: The effect of reinforcer type and task instructions on learning in the Iowa gambling task. Brain and Cognition, 60, 94–102.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gilbert, D. T. (1989). Thinking lightly about others: Automatic components of the social inference process. In J. S. Uleman & J. A. Bargh (Eds.), Unintended thought (pp. 189–211). Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  25. Gilbert, D. T. (1991). How mental systems believe. American Psychologist, 46, 107–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gilbert, D. T. (2002). Inferential correction. In T. Gilovich, D. Griffin, & D. Kahneman (Eds.), Heuristics and biases: The psychology of intuitive thought (pp. 167–184). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Gilhooly, K. J., Logie, R. H., Wetherick, N. E., & Wynn, V. (1993). Working memory and strategies in syllogistic reasoning tasks. Memory and Cognition, 21, 115–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gilhooly, K. J., Logie, R. H., & Wynn, V. (2002). Syllogistic reasoning tasks and working memory: Evidence from sequential presentation of premises. Current Psychological Research, 21, 111–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gilovich, T., Griffin, D., & Kahneman, D. (Eds.). (2002). Heuristics and biases: The psychology of intuitive thought. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Hinson, J. M., Jameson, T. L., & Whitney, P. (2002). Somatic markers, working memory, and decision making. Cognitive Behavioural and Affective Neuroscience, 2, 341–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hinson, J. M., Whitney, P., Holben, H., & Wirick, A. K. (2006). Affective biasing of choices in gambling task decision making. Cognitive Behavioural and Affective Neuroscience, 6, 190–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Holyoak, K. J., & Spellman, B. A. (1993). Thinking. Annual Review of Psychology, 44, 265–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Jameson, T. L., Hinson, J. M., & Whitney, P. (2004). Components of working memory and somatic markers in decision making. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 11, 515–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Johnson-Laird, P. N. (2006). How we reason. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Kahneman, D. (2003). Maps of bounded rationality: Psychology for behavioral economics. The American Economic Review, 93, 1449–1475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kerr, A., & Zelazo, P. D. (2004). Development of “hot” executive function: The children’s gambling task. Brain and Cognition, 55, 148–157.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Maia, T. V., & McClelland, J. L. (2004). A reexamination of the evidence for the somatic marker hypothesis: What participants really know in the Iowa gambling task. Proceedings of the National Academy for Science USA, 101, 16075–16080.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Manes, F., Sahakian, B. J., Clark, L., Rogers, R., Antoun, N., Aitken, M., et al. (2002). Decision-making processes following damage to the prefrontal cortex. Brain, 125, 624–639.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mellers, B. (2000). Choice and the relative pleasure of consequences. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 910–924.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Northoff, G., Grimm, S., Boeker, H., Schmidt, C., Bermpohl, F., Heinzel, A., et al. (2006). Affective judgment and beneficial decision making: Ventromedial prefrontal activity correlates with performance in the Iowa gambling task. Human Brain Mapping, 27, 572–587.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Oaksford, M., & Chater, N. (2003). Optimal data selection: Revision, review, and reevaluation. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 10, 289–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Overman, W. H., Frassrand, K., Ansel, S., Trawalter, S., Bies, B., & Redmond, A. (2004). Performance on the IOWA card task by adolescents and adults. Neuropsychologia, 42, 1838–1851.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Oya, H., Adolphs, R., Kawasaki, H., Bechara, A., & Damasio, A. R. (2005). Electrophysiological correlates of reward prediction error recorded in the human prefrontal cortex. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 102, 8351–8356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Reverberi, C., Rusconi, P., Paulesu, E., & Cherubini, P. (2009). Response demands and the recruitment of heuristic strategies in syllogistic reasoning. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology (Colchester), 62, 513–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sanfey, A. G., Loewenstein, G., McClure, S. M., & Cohen, J. D. (2006). Neuroeconomics: Cross-currents in research on decision-making. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 10, 108–116.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sloman, S. (1996). The empirical case for two systems of reasoning. Psychological Bulletin, 119, 3–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sloman, S. (2002). Two systems of reasoning. In T. Gilovich, D. Griffin, & D. Kahneman (Eds.), Heuristics and biases: The psychology of intuitive thought (pp. 379–396). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Slovic, P., Finucane, M., Peters, E., & MacGregor, D. G. (2002). The affect heuristic. In T. Gilovich, D. Griffin, & D. Kahneman (Eds.), Heuristics and biases: The psychology of intuitive thought (pp. 397–420). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Stanovich, K. E., & West, R. F. (2000). Individual differences in reasoning: Implications for the rationality debate? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23, 645–665.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Tranel, D., Bechara, A., & Denburg, N. L. (2002). Asymmetric functional roles of right and left ventromedial prefrontal cortices in social conduct, decision-making, and emotional processing. Cortex, 38(4), 589–612.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Turnbull, O. H., Evans, C. Y., Bunce, A., Carzolio, B., & O’Connor, J. (2005). Emotion based learning and central executive resources: An investigation of intuition and the Iowa gambling task. Brain and Cognition, 57, 244–247.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. von Neumann, J., & Morgenstern, O. (1944). Theory of games and economic behavior. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  53. Wason, P. C., & Evans, J. St. B. T. (1975). Dual processes in reasoning? Cognition, 3, 141–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Windmann, S., Kirsch, P., Mier, D., Stark, R., Walter, B., Gunturkun, O., et al. (2006). On framing effects in decision making: Linking lateral versus medial orbitofrontal cortex activation to choice outcome processing. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 18, 1198–1211.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marta Gozzi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Paolo Cherubini
    • 1
  • Costanza Papagno
    • 1
  • Emanuela Bricolo
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di PsicologiaUniversità di Milano-BicoccaMilanItaly
  2. 2.Pediatrics and Developmental Neuroscience BranchNational Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA

Personalised recommendations