The impact of threat of shock on the framing effect and temporal discounting: executive functions unperturbed by acute stress?

Frontiers in Psychology 6:153123 (2015)
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Abstract

Anxiety and stress-related disorders constitute a large global health burden, but are still poorly understood. Prior work has demonstrated clear impacts of stress upon basic cognitive function: biasing attention toward unexpected and potentially threatening information and instantiating a negative affective bias. However, the impact that these changes have on higher-order, executive, decision-making processes is unclear. In this study, we examined the impact of a translational within-subjects stress induction (threat of unpredictable shock) on two well-established executive decision-making biases: the framing effect ( N = 83), and temporal discounting ( N = 36). In both studies, we demonstrate (a) clear subjective effects of stress, and (b) clear executive decision-making biases but (c) no impact of stress on these decision-making biases. Indeed, Bayes factor analyses confirmed substantial preference for decision-making models that did not include stress. We posit that while stress may induce subjective mood change and alter low-level perceptual and action processes ( Robinson et al., 2013c ), some higher-level executive processes remain unperturbed by these impacts. As such, although stress can induce a transient affective biases and altered mood, these need not result in poor financial decision-making.

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