When choosing between options that vary in risk, we often rely on our experience with options—our episodic memories—to make that choice. Although episodic memory has been demonstrated to be critically involved in value-based decision-making, it is not clear how these memory processes contribute to decision-making that involves risk. To investigate this issue, we tested a group of participants on a repeated-choice risky decision-making task. Before completing this task, half of the participants were given a well-validated episodic induction task—a brief training procedure in recollecting the details of a past experience—known to engage episodic memory processes, and the other half were given a general impressions induction task. Our main finding was that risk-taking following the general impressions induction task was significantly lower than following the episodic induction task. In a follow-up experiment, we tested risk-taking in another group of participants without any prior induction task and found that risk-taking from this no-induction (baseline) group was more similar to the episodic induction than to the general impression group. Overall, these findings suggest engaging episodic memory processes when learning about decision outcomes can alter apparent risk-taking behavior in decision-making from experience.

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