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Study Suggests Stress Can Impact Decisions

By , black-rose-bielefeld.de GuideMarch 5, 2012

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Researchers have found that stress can affect how you make decisions. The study, published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, involved placing participants under stress by having them place a hand in ice water for several minutes. The researchers found that in this stressful situations, participants were more likely to pay attention to positive information while discounting negative information.

The study's authors, Mara Mather and Nichole R. Lighthall, suggest that when you are making an important decision under stress, like trying to decide if you should accept a new job position, you are more likely to focus on the benefits of each alternative rather than the potential downsides. For example, when weighing the pros and cons of a job offer, you would be more likely to focus on the benefits such as increased pay and time off instead of the negatives such as more work hours and a longer commute.

"We make all sorts of decisions under stress," Mather explains. "If your kid has an accident and ends up in the hospital, that's a very stressful situation and decisions need to be made quickly. It seems likely that how much stress you're experiencing will affect the way you're making the decision."


M. Mather, N. R. Lighthall. (2012). Risk and Reward Are Processed Differently in Decisions Made Under Stress. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21(1), 36. DOI: 10.1177/0963721411429452

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