The effects of emotion on pilot decision-making: A neuroergonomic approach to aviation safety

Mickaël Causse, Frédéric Dehais, Patrice Péran, Umberto Sabatini, Josette Pastor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Emotion or stress can jeopardize decision-making relevance and cognitive functioning. In this paper we examine plan continuation error (PCE), an erroneous behavior defined as a "failure to revise a flight plan despite emerging evidence that suggests it is no longer safe" (. Orasanu et al., 2001). Our hypothesis is that negative emotional consequences attached to the go-around decision provoke a temporary impairment of the decision-making process and favor PCE. We investigated this hypothesis with a simplified landing task in which two possible contributors to those emotions, namely the uncertainty of a decision outcome and the reward/punishment, associated to the outcome were manipulated. A behavioral experiment (n=12) and a second one (n=6) using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) were conducted. Behavioral results of both studies showed the effectiveness of the financial incentive to bias decision making toward a more risky and less rational behavior from a safety point of view. Neuroimaging data showed that the PCE behavior was underpinned by the contribution of brain circuitry of emotion and reward during the decision-making process. Taken together, behavioral and fMRI result support the hypothesis that PCE can be provoked by a temporary impairment of rational decision-making due to the negative emotional consequences attached with the go-around.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-281
Number of pages10
JournalTransportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


  • Aviation
  • Decision making
  • Emotion
  • Human factors
  • Neuroeconomics
  • Neuroergonomics
  • Plan continuation error

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Automotive Engineering
  • Transportation


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