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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program

Neuroscience & Behavior

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



It is well known that cultural difference could affect people’s attitude, behavior and cognitive processes. Previous studies have shown a cross-cultural difference on self-construal between Western Caucasian (WC) and East Asian (EA), as well as their culturally distinguished motivational strategies, cognitive and emotion regulation methods. “Cushion hypothesis” (Hsee & Weber 1999) has suggested that WC were more risk aversive than EA during economic decision, because of dissimilar familial-social economic supporting system between two cultures. The current study digs in depth to these differences in emotional experience associated with decision making and discovers how cultures effect people’s counterfactual emotions—the “what if” emotion—during economic decision making. There are two types of counterfactuals thoughts we are looking at: regret and relief. Regret is triggered if an alternative action would have led to a better outcome, while relief is triggered if an alternative action would lead to equal or worse outcome. WC are expected to be more self-reliance, therefore would be more conservative about financial decision, and greater vigilant at economic choices prompting WC to process prior decision that led to least undesirable economic outcome; while EA are easier to get financial help form their families, would hold a relatively more relax attitude, compare to WC, about risk-taking behavior on economic decision, and be more chilled after receive preferable outcome than WC. Current study will use electropherogram (EEG) to record different event-relative potential (P2, P3 and LPP) and both FC (frontal central lobe) and CP (central parietal lobe) regions to examined how cultural difference affects counterfactual emotions during economic decision making, at both initial spontaneous arousal stage, P2 and conscious effortful emotional appraisal stage, LPP. Additionally, self emotional rating was included in the present study to consolidate validity of the task. In our results, all subjects rated happier on Relief than Regret, and Certain than Gamble conditions, only in Relief condition WC rated happier than EA, and only WC rated happier on Certain condition than Gamble condition. The emotional effect showed at P2 in FC suggested that positive result in regret condition could lead a more intensive immediate emotion arousal. Coincidently, the main effect of emotion at LPP, in the opposite direction compared to P2, at FC, might suggest an overall convoluted counterfactual emotional processing. At P3, choices by culture interaction presented at both region, further, only EA, but not WC, had a greater arousal in gamble condition than certain. This suggested a difference in cognitive processing of choices was different between two cultures. Interestingly, a three-way interaction was found at CP during P3, indicate a complexity of culture discrepancy of emotional process. Finally, a co-relation test between LPP signal and self-emotional rating was conducted, for the coincident of result of main effect of choices plus a marginal choices by culture interaction between behavioral rating and LPP. As the result, only in EA, at both choices conditions, the rating is positively related to LPP amplitude. Overall, both at P3 and LPP we found cultural specialized results correlated with choices condition, which indicated a obscure cultural effect on cognitive process. Moreover, the marginal three-way interaction at P3, CP, may suggest a cultural effects on both economic decision-making related cognitive process and emotional response.


First Advisor

Youngbin Kwak

Second Advisor

Jennifer M. McDermott

Third Advisor

Changhui Pak