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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Exploring decision-making strategies in the Iowa gambling task and rat gambling task

Hultman, Cathrine; Tjernstrom, Nikita; Vadlin, Sofia; Rehn, Mattias; Nilsson, Kent W.; Roman, Erika; Aslund, Cecilia


Decision-making requires that individuals perceive the probabilities and risks associated with different options. Experimental human and animal laboratory testing provide complimentary insights on the psychobiological underpinnings of decision-making. The Iowa gambling task (IGT) is a widely used instrument that assesses decision-making under uncertainty and risk. In the task participants are faced with a choice conflict between cards with varying monetary reinforcer/loss contingencies. The rat gambling task (rGT) is a pre-clinical version using palatable reinforcers as wins and timeouts mimicking losses. However, interspecies studies elaborating on human and rat behavior in these tasks are lacking. This study explores decision-making strategies among young adults (N = 270) performing a computerized version of the IGT, and adult outbred male Lister Hooded rats (N = 72) performing the rGT. Both group and individual data were explored by normative scoring approaches and subgroup formations based on individual choices were investigated. Overall results showed that most humans and rats learned to favor the advantageous choices, but to a widely different extent. Human performance was characterized by both exploration and learning as the task progressed, while rats showed relatively consistent pronounced preferences for the advantageous choices throughout the task. Nevertheless, humans and rats showed similar variability in individual choice preferences during end performance. Procedural differences impacting on the performance in both tasks and their potential to study different aspects of decision-making are discussed. This is a first attempt to increase the understanding of similarities and differences regarding decision-making processes in the IGT and rGT from an explorative perspective.


decision-making; Iowa gambling task; rat gambling task; uncertainty; risk

Published in

Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
2022, Volume: 16, article number: 964348Publisher: FRONTIERS MEDIA SA

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Behavioral Sciences Biology

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