Contrary to the conventional view that stress enhances our ability to detect sources of threat, a team of researchers have found that it diminishes the ability to predict new dangers.
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What research says?
- The research indicated that stress reduces physiological response to the new threat cue.
- The researchers applied a computational learning model to further understand how stress affects flexibility in decision-making.
- This analysis revealed a learning deficit for the subject put under the stress condition that participants used to update the cue associations.
- In short, this resulted in a slower rate of learning.
- Researchers,our study shows that when we are under stress, we pay less attention to changes in the environment.
- In addition,potentially putting us at an increased risk for ignoring new sources of threat.
- The researchers conducted a series of experiments to test the ability to learn to flexibly update threat responses under stressful conditions.
- Here, the participants viewed images on a computer screen.
- The appearance of some images were coupled with a mild, electric wrist-shock.
- Half of the participants underwent a laboratory procedure a day later designed to induce stress.
- This “stress group” placed their arm in an ice-water bath for a few minutes, which elevated the two stress hormones — alpha-amylase and cortisol.
- Later, all the participants repeated the threat-conditioning procedure.
- However, this time the cue outcomes switched.
- The earlier threatening cue no longer predict shock, but the formerly safe cue did.
- While the participants viewed the images, the researchers collected physiological arousal responses in order to measure how individuals anticipated the outcome of each cue.
- On the second day, the “stress group” was less likely to change their responses to threats than the control group.