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Positive cognitive reappraisal is beneficial for women’s but not for men’s IGT decision-making


Real-life decision-making involves a balance between emotion and cognition, a process that is mirrored in the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT). Previous studies suggest that negative emotion affects IGT performance, and that this effect may be moderated by gender. In the current study, we experimentally instructed the use of a strategy for ameliorating the incidental negative emotion induced by negative images while men and women solved the IGT. To do this, we asked 38 men and 38 women to either only look at negative images (non-reappraisal group) or to use positive cognitive reappraisal when facing these negative images (reappraisal group) to ameliorate the negative emotion associated with them while trying to solve the IGT. Both men and women in the reappraisal group successfully used positive reappraisal to decrease their negative emotion compared to the control, non-reappraisal group. Critically, we observed that women performed better in the reappraisal group compared with the non-reappraisal group, in the second half of the task (performance phase). Conversely, men performed worse in the reappraisal group compared to the non-reappraisal group in the second half of the task (performance phase). Finally, a multigroup analysis revealed a gender moderation of the direct and indirect effects of positive reappraisal on IGT performance, indicating that reappraisal benefited women’s IGT performance through the regulation of negative emotion. Conversely, for men, the decrease of negative emotion through reappraisal did not impact IGT performance. Our results demonstrate that while the use of positive reappraisal is useful to ameliorate negative emotions for men and women, positive reappraisal benefits women’s decision-making, and impairs men’s.

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  1. According to previous studies (Weller et al., 2010; Flores-Torres et al., 2019), we expected to find differences in the last blocks. In the present study, blocks 21 to 25. Although we cannot precisely determine a priori in a 450 trial-task where the learning stage ends, we assume that near the end of the task (last 20%), participants are in the performance stage.


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The authors thank Ivan Rubio, Eric Andrews, Olivia Digirolamo, Carly Post, Ilana Hayutin, Patricio Cumsille, Alvaro Vergés, and McKenzie Goebel for supporting the execution of the study.


This work was supported by the NSF CAREER Award under Grant [1554683] and the Agencia Nacional de Investigación y Desarrollo (ANID, Chile) under Grant [Doctorado Nacional 21140098].

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Correspondence to Kateri McRae.

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Flores-Torres, J., Gómez-Pérez, L. & McRae, K. Positive cognitive reappraisal is beneficial for women’s but not for men’s IGT decision-making. Motiv Emot 46, 350–365 (2022).

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  • Positive cognitive reappraisal
  • Negative emotion
  • Iowa Gambling Task
  • Decision-making
  • Gender differences