Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Stress Changes How People Make Decisions

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My friend Julianne pointed me to an article in Science Daily that says:
A new article published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, reviews how, under stress, people pay more attention to the upside of a possible outcome. 
It's a bit surprising that stress makes people focus on the way things could go right, says Mara Mather of the University of Southern California, who cowrote the new review paper with Nichole R. Lighthall. "This is sort of not what people would think right off the bat," Mather says. "Stress is usually associated with negative experiences, so you'd think, maybe I'm going to be more focused on the negative outcomes." 
But researchers have found that when people are put under stress -- by being told to hold their hand in ice water for a few minutes, for example, or give a speech -- they start paying more attention to positive information and discounting negative information....... 
Stress also increases the differences in how men and women think about risk. When men are under stress, they become even more willing to take risks; when women are stressed, they get more conservative about risk. Mather links this to other research that finds, at difficult times, men are inclined toward fight-or-flight responses, while women try to bond more and improve their relationships.
We think with our brains, not our minds. The hormones count, as do brain systems of which we are not consciously aware. Consequently, our decisions are not purely rational. On the other hand, if we know that there a "unconscious biases" in our decision making, it is possible to consciously try to correct for them and thus to make better decisions.

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