ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (6): 1377-1392.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2022.01377

• Research Method • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Risk-taking research based on the Balloon Analog Risk Task

DENG Yao1,2,3, WANG Mengmeng1,2,3, RAO Hengyi1,2,3()   

  1. 1School of Business and Management, Shanghai International Studies University, Shanghai 201620, China
    2Key Laboratory of Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Shanghai International Studies University, Shanghai 201620, China
    3Center for Magnetic Resonance Imaging Research & Key Laboratory of Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Shanghai International Studies University, Shanghai 201620, China
  • Received:2021-06-02 Online:2022-06-15 Published:2022-04-26
  • Contact: RAO Hengyi


In daily life and work, people inevitably need to make choices and decisions under risky situations. The existence of risks may bring some negative consequences to the decision-makers or maybe the beginning of new opportunities. Therefore, how people make effective decisions in different risky situations and the cognitive neural mechanism behind it has been a research hotspot in many disciplines. For many years, a variety of measurements have been used to explore an individual’s risk-taking behaviors. Many studies leverage self-reported instruments to investigate risk (e.g., Sensation-Seeking Scale, Barratt Impulsiveness Scale), while others measure risk-taking using some paradigms. The Balloon Analog Risk Task (BART) is extensively accepted and applied by many researchers due to its well simulation of real-life risk-taking situations in a laboratory environment. The current study synthesizes the BART’s reliability and validity compared to other paradigms and further probes the advantages of using the BART as the measuring instrument of risk-taking behaviors. Moreover, the present study also discusses the evolution of the paradigm and summarizes the research progress of BART based on the existing behavioral and neural studies. Finally, some deficiencies of BART and the prospects for its development are put forward in conclusion.
Compared with other risk-taking paradigms, the BART has been proved to be of high ecology, stability, and reliability under different risk circumstances. It has become one of the most widely used paradigms for risky decision-making research. It also has unique advantages in the prediction of some risks, such as smoking, drinking and substance use. As the pioneering behavioral paradigm that was exploited to measure adolescent risk-taking behaviors, the BART contributes a lot to exploring youths' addiction and substance use. Recently, researchers have developed a series of variants of the BART paradigm to adapt to the needs of different research situations. Many studies have leveraged the BART to extensively explore neural correlates of risk-taking behaviors in developmental, healthy, pathological, and addiction research. Overall, BART can not only meet the needs of behavioral measurement in different risk scenarios; but also be well combined with a series of neural measurement techniques. Neuroimaging studies have confirmed that risk-taking in the BART is associated with activations in multiple brain regions, including the ventral striatum, anterior cingulate cortex, insula, midbrain, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. These findings suggest that the risk-taking behaviors measured by the BART involve rewards, emotions, learning, and evaluation. BART is also regarded as a classical paradigm for sequential risk decision-making. Similar findings are mentioned in the computational modeling of the BART data in sequential risk-taking consequences, emphasizing the critical role of learning and evaluation processes in the task.
Although the BART has been widely used in risk-taking research, future studies are still needed to further improve the reliability and stability of the BART for cognitive neuroscience research and expand its application scope. Currently, the BART research at the neural level still lacks large sample data, which may lead to incorrect research results like underestimating the possibility of an individual’s risk-taking in real life. It is necessary to further expand the sample size, build a database based on the BART behavior and neuroimaging experiments, and share data and research results in different fields and levels to enhance our understanding of risky decision-making.

Key words: The Balloon Analog Risk Task (BART), risk decision-making, cognitive neural mechanism

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