Iowa Gambling Task: what is it and how is it used?
This psychological test is used to evaluate cognitive processes linked to decision making.
Every day of our lives we make hundreds of decisions: what to have for breakfast, where to go, with whom, how and what to talk about, what to prioritize, when to rest... Many of them seem unimportant to us and we hardly notice them, while in other cases we reflect and think carefully about the possible implications before making a decision.
Sometimes guided by reason, sometimes by emotion. But we decide. In either case, the act of deciding still requires a broad set of mental operations and processes in order to be carried out.
Trying to explain how we decide is something that has generated great interest from disciplines such as psychology, having generated different instruments that aim to contribute to discover it through the analysis of our responses. One of these instruments is the Iowa Gambling Task, better known as the Iowa Gambling Task.. And it is about this interesting instrument that we are going to talk about in this article.
What is the Iowa Gambling Task?
The Iowa Gambling Task is a type of psychological test of behavioral type used as an evaluation instrument, which allows us to assess and evaluate the decision making process of the person who performs it.. Specifically, it aims to assess the degree of involvement of cognitive and emotional factors in decision making.
This is a a task of a certain complexity in which a total of 4 decks of cards (A, B, C and D) are provided to the subject to be (A, B, C and D) to the subject to be evaluated, indicating that he/she has a certain amount of virtual money (specifically 2000 dollars). The subject must pick up cards from the decks, which can either cause economic gains or losses, and is assigned the task of obtaining the maximum possible profit.
The decks are not equal to each other: two of them cause considerable gains and losses, while the cards in the other two involve both minor gains and losses.. Specifically, Deck A and Deck B usually provide about $100 per play, and one in ten times they cause a loss of $1250 (although Deck A causes losses more often, the total amount is the same as that of Deck B).
As for decks C and D, they cause losses of $250 every ten trials, the loss being more common in C, although the final balance is the same in both decks. While decks A and B have a final balance of -250, decks C and D have a positive balance of $250. Thus, decks A and B would actually reflect negative results and would be bad decks, while decks C and B would allow for a moderate but safe gain.
However, the subject does not know any of this: he is faced with an ambiguous task since he has no knowledge whatsoever regarding what is in each deck. Thus, he starts from a situation of total uncertainty and, little by little and by little by little and through a process of trial and error, he will learn the characteristics of the decks.. The choices they make will depend not on previous knowledge but on the feedback generated at an emotional level by the successive choice of cards, although they will learn to choose those that are most favorable to them.
Although this task has traditionally been performed physically, nowadays there is a computerized version that allows a more comfortable realization and evaluation for both the evaluated and the evaluator, being this quite more common in consultation.
The somatic marker hypothesis
The Iowa Game of Chance was proposed and designed mainly on the basis of a specific hypothesis, which explains decision-making. It is the Damasio's somatic marker hypothesis.
It proposes that the decision-making process is fundamentally guided and modulated by emotional and somatic responses that anticipate the consequences of our decisions, so that we classify the possible choices in search of the most favorable ones for us. Emotional responses are interpreted by a neural network or pathway, in which the amygdala in which the amygdala, in contact with the hypothalamus and the brainstem, generates impulses that are subsequently regulated by these nuclei in order to generate a somatic response.
This is why a response is "marked" at the somatic level as pleasant or unpleasant, which results in the replication or avoidance of the behavior that provoked it. Likewise, through the orbitofrontal we generate a replication of this sensation each time we carry out a similar task, something that explains why response tendencies arise and are maintained.
In what situations or disorders is this task usually used?
Although technically it could be used in any field in which we try to analyze the decision-making process of a person (since there are interpersonal or even intrapersonal differences depending on the time and state of the subject), as a general rule the use of the Iowa Gambling Task is usually confined to the clinical setting or to research.
In either case it is usually used to assess the existence of dysfunctions or alterations in the orbitofrontal cortex, especially in cases of disorders or lesions of the orbitofrontal cortex.especially in cases of disorders or lesions associated with problems in these areas. While those with an uninjured orbitofrontal tend to experience stress responses when confronted with decks considered "bad" after a period of time, in anticipation of possible punishment, this reaction is not observed to the same extent in subjects with problems in that area.
Although it does not have a specific target audience, the Iowa Gambling Task is often used for patients with traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, stroke or dementia (as long as the patient's brain is not affected). (as long as orbitofrontal damage is observed or symptomatology indicates some type of decision-making dysfunction), as well as in disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (in which doubt and difficulty in decision-making are common) or schizophrenia.