A new study indicates that when under stress people reach undesirable conclusions based on weaker evidence than when they are relaxed.
The findings suggest that stress can make people more likely to conclude the worst scenario is true.
Our research suggests that under stress, people weight each piece of evidence that supports undesirable conclusions more than when they are relaxed
Senior author Professor Tali Sharot, UCL Psychology and Language Sciences and Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research, said: “Many of the most significant choices you will make, from financial decisions to medical and professional ones, will happen while you feel stressed.
“Often these decisions require you to first gather information and weigh the evidence.
“For example, you may consult multiple physicians before deciding on a best course of medical treatment.
“We wanted to find out: does feeling stressed change how you process and use the information you gather?
“Our research suggests that under stress, people weigh each piece of evidence that supports undesirable conclusions more than when they are relaxed.
“In contrast, how they weigh evidence that supports desirable conclusions is not affected by stress.
“As a result, people are more likely to conclude the worst is true when they are stressed.”
Journal of Neuroscience (July, 2021)