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Clin Psychol Rev. 2010 Jul;30(5):562-81. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2010.04.002. Epub 2010 Apr 9.

Decision-making and cognitive abilities: A review of associations between Iowa Gambling Task performance, executive functions, and intelligence.

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Department of Psychology, LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution, York University, Canada.


The Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) has been used to study decision-making differences in many different clinical and developmental samples. It has been suggested that IGT performance captures abilities that are separable from cognitive abilities, including executive functions and intelligence. The purpose of the current review was to examine studies that have explicitly examined the relationship between IGT performance and these cognitive abilities. We included 43 studies that reported correlational analyses with IGT performance, including measures of inhibition, working memory, and set-shifting as indices of executive functions, as well as measures of verbal, nonverbal, and full-scale IQ as indices of intelligence. Overall, only a small proportion of the studies reported a statistically significant relationship between IGT performance and these cognitive abilities. The majority of studies reported a non-significant relationship. Of the minority of studies that reported statistically significant effects, effect sizes were, at best, small to modest, and confidence intervals were large, indicating that considerable variability in performance on the IGT is not captured by current measures of executive function and intelligence. These findings highlight the separability between decision-making on the IGT and cognitive abilities, which is consistent with recent conceptualizations that differentiate rationality from intelligence.

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