Anxious ultimatums: How anxiety disorders affect socioeconomic behaviour

Alessandro Grecucci, Cinzia Giorgetta, Paolo Brambilla, Sophia Zuanon, Laura Perini, Matteo Balestrieri, Nicolao Bonini, Alan G. Sanfey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although the role of emotion in socioeconomic decision making is increasingly recognised, the impact of specific emotional disorders, such as anxiety disorders, on these decisions has been surprisingly neglected. Twenty anxious patients and twenty matched controls completed a commonly used socioeconomic task (the Ultimatum Game), in which they had to accept or reject monetary offers from other players. Anxious patients accepted significantly more unfair offers than controls. We discuss the implications of these findings in light of recent models of anxiety, in particular the importance of interpersonal factors and assertiveness in an integrated model of decision making. Finally, we were able to show that pharmacological serotonin used to treat anxious symptomatology tended to normalise decision making, further confirming and extending the role of serotonin in co-operation, prosocial behaviour, and social decision making. These results show, for the first time, a different pattern of socioeconomic behaviour in anxiety disordered patients, in addition to the known memory, attentional and emotional biases that are part of this pathological condition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)230-244
Number of pages15
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013


  • Anxiety
  • Decision making
  • Emotions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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