Acute stress alters individual risk taking in a time-dependent manner and leads to anti-social risk

Decision-making processes can be modulated by stress, and the time elapsed from stress induction seems to be a crucial factor in determining the direction of the effects. Although current approaches consider the first post-stress hour a uniform period, the dynamic pattern of activation of the physiological stress systems (i.e., the sympathetic nervous system and hypothalamic-pitui- tary-adrenal axis) suggests that its neurobehavioural impact might be heterogeneous. Here, we evaluate economic risk prefer- ences on the gain domain (i.e., risk aversion) at three time points following exposure to psychosocial stress (immediately after, and 20 and 45 min from onset). Using lottery games, we examine decisions at both the individual and social levels. We find that risk aversion shows a time-dependent change across the first post-stress hour, evolving from less risk aversion shortly after stress to more risk averse behaviour at the last testing time. When risk implied an antisocial outcome to a third party, stressed individuals showed less regard for this person in their decisions. Participants’ cortisol levels explained their behaviour in the risk, but not the antisocial, game. Our findings reveal differential stress effects in self- and other-regarding decision-making and high- light the multidimensional nature of the immediate aftermath of stress for cognition.

Published in:
Eur J Neurosci, 45, 7, 877-85
Hoboken, Wiley

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 Record created 2016-09-07, last modified 2018-03-17

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