Emotional content impacts how executive function ability relates to willingness to wait and to work for reward

Katherine S.F. Damme*, Nicholas J. Kelley, Meghan E. Quinn, James E. Glazer, Iris Ka Yi Chat, Katherine S. Young, Robin Nusslock, Richard Zinbarg, Susan Bookheimer, Michelle G. Craske

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Research has demonstrated that better value-based decision making (e.g., waiting or working for rewards) relates to greater executive function (EF) ability. However, EF is not a static ability, but is influenced by the emotional content of the task. As such, EF ability in emotional contexts may have unique associations with value-based decision making, in which costs and benefits are explicit. Participants (N = 229) completed an EF task (with both negative and neutral task conditions) and two value-based decision-making tasks. Willingness to wait and to work were evaluated in separate path models relating the waiting and working conditions to the EF conditions. Willingness to wait and willingness to work showed distinct relationships with EF ability: Greater EF ability on a negative, but not on a neutral, EF task was related to a willingness to wait for a reward, whereas greater EF ability across both EF tasks was related to a greater willingness to work for a reward. EF ability on a negative EF task showed an inverted-U relationship to willingness to wait for reward, and was most related to willingness to wait at a 6-month delay. Greater EF, regardless of whether the task was negative or neutral, was related to a greater willingness to work when reward was uncertain (50%) or was likely (88%), but not when reward was unlikely (12%). This study suggests that the emotional content of value-based decisions impacts the relationship between EF ability and willingness to wait or to work for reward.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)637-652
Number of pages16
JournalCognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 15 2019


  • DDT
  • Decision making
  • EEfRT
  • Effort discounting
  • Executive function
  • N-back
  • Reward
  • Temporal discounting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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