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Description: Mild degrees of hypoxia are known to exert a detrimental effect on cognitive functions. In a lab study we assessed the effect of mild hypoxia on risk-taking behavior. Participants (N=25) were presented with pairs of bets of equal expected monetary value, one having a higher probability of winning/losing a lower payoff (safer bet) and one having a lower probability of winning/losing a higher payoff (riskier bet). We systematically varied the ratio of the probabilities (and corresponding payoffs) of the two bets, and examined how this affected participants’ choice between them. Following a familiarization session, participants performed the task twice: once in a normoxic environment (20.9% oxygen concentration) and once in a mildly hypoxic environment (14.1% oxygen concentration). Participants were not told and could not guess which environment they were in. We found a higher preference for the riskier bet in the mild hypoxic than normoxic environment but only in the loss domain. Furthermore, as the probability ratio increased, mild hypoxia increased preference for the riskier bet in the domain of losses but decreased it for gains. The present findings support that mild hypoxia promotes riskier choices in the loss domain and provide new insights into the impact of mild hypoxia in moderating the effect of probability ratio on risky choices.


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