ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2014, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (5): 647-655.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2014.00647

Previous Articles     Next Articles

Cortisol Reactivity to Stress and Decision–making in Adolescents: There is Gender Difference

LU Qingyun;TAO Fangbiao;HOU Fangli;SUN Ying   

  1. (1 Department of Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health, Anhui Medical University, Hefei 230032, China) (2 Department of Child and Adolescent Health, Nantong University, Nantong 226009, China)
  • Received:2013-08-20 Published:2014-05-24 Online:2014-05-24
  • Contact: TAO Fangbiao


Acutely elevated levels of cortisol are associated with euphoria and reward-like properties related to sensation-seeking behavior. Moreover, research suggested cortisol response had different effects on risk taking in males and females. The main purpose of this research was to test whether cortisol reactivity to stress was associated with decision-making and there had the gender difference. Healthy junior school students performed the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST), and the objective measure-salivary cortisol at different time points were assessed. Then, participants played a Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART) to measure decision-making after completing TSST. The results showed that male participants exhibited a significant increase in salivary cortisol reactivity following the TSST compared to female. Furthermore, while males with high responders showed more risk-taking behavior and lower monetary reward in the BART compared to low responders, females with high responders did report higher monetary reward compared to low responders. In conclusion, this study demonstrated that cortisol reactivity to acute stress as induced by the TSST was related to decision-making behavior of males and females differently. Especially, in males, higher cortisol reactivity was associated with risk-taking performance in BART. In females, elevated reactivity of cortisol after the TSST was associated with higher BART scores.

Key words: cortisol reactivity, decision-making, adolescents