ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2016, Vol. 24 ›› Issue (6): 974-984.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2016.00974

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The effects of stress on risky and social decision making

YANG Qun1; LI Yu1; SUN Delin2,5; LEE Tatia M. C.2,3,4   

  1. (1 Department of Psychology, School of Education, Hangzhou Normal University, Hangzhou 311121, China) (2 Laboratory of Neuropsychology; 3 Laboratory of Cognitive Affective Neuroscience; 4 The State Key Laboratory of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China) (5 Duke-UNC Brain Imaging and Analysis Center, Durham, NC 27705, USA)
  • Received:2015-07-22 Online:2016-06-15 Published:2016-06-15
  • Contact: Tatia M. C. LEE, E-mail:


Stress refers to systematically nonspecific reactions to actual or potential threats. It is accompanied with psychological experiences of nervousness and anxiety, excitation of the sympathetic nervous system, increment of glucocorticoid, and alternations in the brainstem-limbic-prefrontal neural circuit. Stress significantly influences risk-seeking and risk-aversive behaviors in risky decision making as well as proself and prosocial behaviors in social decision making. The cognitive basis of stress’s influences on decision making are formed by dysfunctional strategies, an increase of habitual and automatic responses, alterations in feedback processing and changes in reward and punishment sensitivity. On the other hand, the neural foundations of stress’s influences on decision making are formed by secretion of stress hormones and brain activation changes in areas that are crucial in decision making, such as prefrontal cortex, amygdala. Future studies should focus on the following topics: 1) revealing the relationship between individual differences in stress and diverse effects of stress on decision making; 2) measuring stress with multiple indexes; 3) investigating the temporal course of stress; 4) uncovering an individual’s optimal stress level; 5) strengthening research about the influence of chronic stress on decision making and the reversible effects; 6) unlocking the neural mechanism of how stress affects decision making.

Key words: stress, trier social stress test, risky decision making, social decision making