If you’re trying to make an important decision while the baby is crying, the boss is shouting on the phone and the cat has chosen this moment to think outside the box, you might want to take a breather and wait. A new review shows that acute stress affects the way the brain considers the pros and cons, causing it to focus on pleasure and ignore the possible negative consequences of a decision.
The research has implications for everything from obesity and addictions to finance, suggesting that stress may modify the way people make choices in predictable ways.
“Stress affects how people learn,” says Mara Mather, a psychology professor at the University of Southern California and the lead author of the review. “People learn better about positive than negative outcomes under stress.”