Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Alison Harris

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With prolonged stay-at-home orders and lockdowns accompanying the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it has become increasingly important to understand the negative cognitive and emotional effects of social isolation. Previous research suggests that the stress of social isolation can impair executive functioning and increase risky decision-making, in part through activation of the amygdala and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis. The amygdala has also been implicated in loss aversion, the tendency to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equal gains. However, the effects of social isolation on loss aversion remain unclear. The proposed study investigates how loss aversion is affected by social isolation by comparing performance on an economic decision-making task before and after social isolation versus a control condition of food deprivation. We predict that both testing groups will have increased general feelings of discomfort and lower levels of happiness following 10 hours of deprivation, as well as greater self-reported cravings specific to the deprived need. However, we expect the social isolation group to have a significantly higher loss aversion measure than the food deprivation group. Increases in loss aversion may also vary as a function of self-reported chronic loneliness due to reduced social motivation and/or stress-related changes in the negative emotional response to losses. If confirmed, these results would provide a novel extension of previous research on risky decision-making under isolation, with potential relevance for assessing economic behavior during times of social restriction.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.