Cognitive mechanisms underlying risky decision-making in chronic cannabis users

Fridberg, D. J., Queller, S., Ahn, W.-Y., Kim, W., Bishara, A. J., Busemeyer, J. R., Porrino, L., & Stout, J. C. 2010. Journal of Mathematical Psychology, 54, 28-38.


Chronic cannabis users are known to be impaired on a test of decision-making, the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT). Computational models of the psychological processes underlying this impairment have the potential to provide a rich description of the psychological characteristics of poor performers within particular clinical groups. We used two computational models of IGT performance, the Expectancy Valence Learning model (EVL) and the Prospect Valence Learning model (PVL), to assess motivational, memory, and response processes in 17 chronic cannabis abusers and 15 control participants. Model comparison and simulation methods revealed that the PVL model explained the observed data better than the EVL model. Results indicated that cannabis abusers tended to be under-influenced by loss magnitude, treating each loss as a constant and minor negative outcome regardless of the size of the loss. In addition, they were more influenced by gains, and made decisions that were less consistent with their expectancies relative to non-using controls.