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Sleep and Performance Research Center

Affective and Cognitive Influences in Decisions

JOHN M. HINSON, Ph.D. (Emeritus)

Areas of Interest

Affective and non-affective factors in decision making, cognitive control and flexibility, sleep deprivation effects on cognition

Research Scope

The primary objective of my research is to better understand how cold cognition (rational or deliberative processes) and hot cognition (affective or emotional processes) contribute to decision making. People often make decisions under suboptimal conditions, including conditions of distraction, information overload, stress, or fatigue from sleep loss, leading to less than ideal decision outcomes. In laboratory studies we use cognitive or affective challenges, such as memory loads and divided attention tasks, to examine how these challenges constrain good decision making. My research examines cognitive control processes that contribute to decision making under constraint.

Research Focus

My research focuses on the effects of sleep deprivation on cognition. We have found that sleep deprivation impairs distinct and separable components of cognitive control, namely, stable and flexible attentional control. The component analysis of cognition has shown that some presumed sleep deprivation induced deficits in cognition, for example, impaired working memory functioning, were not really deficits, but were instead the result of simpler cognitive processes that had not been properly identified and isolated for analysis. This work also involves the search for biomarkers, particularly genetic polymorphisms, associated with vulnerability or resilience to the impact of sleep deprivation on cognition.


  • Cody Rosasco, M.S. (Graduate Student, Psychology)
  • Cristina Wilson, M.S. (Graduate Student, Psychology)
  • Amy Nusbaum, M.S. (Graduate Student, Psychology)
  • Anthony Stenson M.S. (Graduate Student, Psychology)

Approaches Used

  • Electrodermal activity
  • Working memory loads
  • Affective loads
  • Attentional control tasks
  • Stress induction
  • Sleep deprivation

Grant Support

  • National Institutes of Health
  • Office of Naval Research
  • Department of Defense