The effect of partner-directed emotion in social exchange decision-making

Iveta Eimontaite, Antoinette Nicolle, Igor Schindler, Vinod Goel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite the prevalence of studies examining economic decision-making as a purely rational phenomenon, common sense suggests that emotions affect our decision-making particularly in a social context. To explore the influence of emotions on economic decision-making, we manipulated opponent-directed emotions prior to engaging participants in two social exchange decision-making games (the Trust Game and the Prisoner's Dilemma). Participants played both games with three different (fictional) partners and their tendency to defect was measured. Prior to playing each game, participants exchanged handwritten "essays" with their partners, and subsequently exchanged evaluations of each essay. The essays and evaluations, read by the participant, were designed to induce either anger, sympathy, or a neutral emotional response toward the confederate with whom they would then play the social exchange games. Galvanic skin conductance level (SCL) showed enhanced physiological arousal during anger induction compared to both the neutral and sympathy conditions. In both social exchange games, participants were most likely to defect against their partner after anger induction and least likely to defect after sympathy induction, with the neutral condition eliciting intermediate defection rates. This pattern was found to be strongest in participants exhibiting low cognitive control (as measured by a Go/no-Go task). The findings indicate that emotions felt toward another individual alter how one chooses to interact with them, and that this influence depends both on the specific emotion induced and the cognitive control of the individual.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberArticle 469
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberJUL
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Anger
  • Cognitive control
  • Decision-making
  • Emotion
  • Prisoner's dilemma
  • Social exchange
  • Sympathy
  • Trust game

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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