Hypoxia, the deprivation of adequate oxygen supply, constitutes a direct threat to survival by disrupting cardiovascular or respiratory homeostasis and eliciting a respiratory distress. Although hypoxia has been shown to increase brain vulnerability and impair basic cognitive functions, only one study has examined its effect on decision-making. The present study examined the effect of mild hypoxia on individual's loss aversion, that is, the tendency to be more affected by losses than equal sized gains. A sample of 26 participants were asked to either accept or reject a series of mixed gambles once in an oxygen-depleted environment (14.1% oxygen concentration) and once in a normoxic environment (20.9% oxygen concentration). Each gamble involved a 50-50 chance of winning or losing specified amounts of money. Mild hypoxia decreased loss aversion: on average in the normoxic condition participants accepted gambles if the gain was at least 2.4 times as large as the loss, whereas in the oxygen-depleted condition participants accepted gambles if the gain was at least 1.7 times as large as the loss. Mild hypoxia may push individuals to be less cautious in daily decisions that involve a trade-off between a gain and a loss. © 2014 Informa UK Ltd.
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