Poster A103, Saturday, March 24, 1:30–3:30 pm, Exhibit Hall C
To trust, or not to trust? Individual differences in psychophysiological reactivity predict trust under acute stress
Stephanie Potts1,2, William T. McCuddy1, Devi Jayan1, Anthony J. Porcelli1,3; 1Marquette University, 2Veterans Administration, St. Louis Health Care System, 3Clinical & Translational Science Institute of Southeast Wisconsin
The acute stress response represents an evolutionarily ancient array of biological responses to challenge or threat that facilitate survival by promoting adaptive behaviors. ‘Adaptive’ in the evolutionary sense, however, does not easily translate to explain stress’ effect on human decisions. Much research demonstrates that acute stress alters decision-making, yet outcomes are influenced by a wide range of methodological, contextual, and biological factors. Further, little is known about how it affects decision-making in social contexts in which people so often act. This is of great importance in today’s increasingly complex social environment, replete with potential stressors, where cooperation and trust are critical. Here the aim was to explore acute stress’ effect on social decision-making, while accounting for factors that may contribute to varied decision outcomes. Ninety-six participants were exposed to either a non-social or social stressor, or control procedure, after which they performed a social decision-making task requiring cooperation and trust with a ‘partner’. Task performance occurred at different times with respect to exposure to examine the roles of temporally distinct biological stress pathways, as well as variation in psychophysiological stress reactivity. Overall acute stress exposure was associated with reduced trust, but a more complex pattern emerged when accounting for individual differences. In keeping with the complexity of the stress response itself, acute stress can enhance or reduce propensity to trust based on an individual’s unique pattern of psychophysiological reactivity to exposure.
Topic Area: THINKING: Decision making