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Implicit Confidence Markers Related to Mood States in Healthy Adults

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A study, published in the journal Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, assessed for the first time whether daily fluctuations in mood and related variables (such as stress or sleep) are coupled with fluctuations in metacognitive states (such as confidence or response vigour) and concluded that in the healthy adult population, fluctuations of mood do not interfere with confidence in decision-making.

In the famous book Descartes’ Error (2008), the Portuguese neuroscientist António Damásio analyses emotions and their fundamental role in human rational behaviour, confirming a long-standing interconnection between emotions and cognition. In this sense, if it is true that emotions and mood alternate episodes are part of human nature, there are still few studies on how these mood fluctuations interact with metacognition and, particularly, with confidence in decision-making.

Considering this state-of-the-art, researchers María da Fonseca, Giovanni Maffei, Rubén Moreno-Bote and Alexandre Hyafil from the University of Pompeu Fabra (Spain), Koa Health B.V. (Spain), Center de Recerca Matemàtica (Spain) and University of Buenos Aires (Argentina) started a longitudinal study based on two online experiments to assess whether implicit confidence markers can be related to mood states in healthy adults.

The researchers explain that they used a sample of 50 participants, mainly among students from the University of Pompeu Fabra, to track subjects’ moods and decision-making over a period of 10 consecutive days in everyday life settings.

The results showed that there is no significant correlation between daily fluctuations of mood and session-confidence markers, that is, mood and associated variables, such as sleep quality, food enjoyment and stress level, are not consistently coupled with implicit confidence markers. However, mood-related states and confidence levels have been found to fluctuate at different time scales, with mood-related states displaying faster fluctuations (over one day or half a day) than confidence levels (two-and-a-half days).

Rubén Moreno Bote, supported by the BIAL Foundation, finds it surprising to see that “spontaneous fluctuations in mood and confidence were not coupled, as expected in the original hypothesis of this study, but evolved on different time scales”. For the researcher from the University of Pompeu Fabra, “findings in this area are important as they could contribute to a better understanding of affective states disorders.”

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