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Acute stress increases sex differences in risk seeking in the balloon analogue risk task.

Lighthall NR, Mather M, Gorlick MA - PLoS ONE (2009)

Bottom Line: Research on behavioral and brain differences in stress responses suggest that stress might have different effects on risk taking in males and females.Stress increased risk taking among men but decreased it among women.Evolutionary principles may explain these stress-induced sex differences in risk taking behavior.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Davis School of Gerontology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA. nichole.lighthall@usc.edu

ABSTRACT

Background: Decisions involving risk often must be made under stressful circumstances. Research on behavioral and brain differences in stress responses suggest that stress might have different effects on risk taking in males and females.

Methodology/principal findings: In this study, participants played a computer game designed to measure risk taking (the Balloon Analogue Risk Task) fifteen minutes after completing a stress challenge or control task. Stress increased risk taking among men but decreased it among women.

Conclusions/significance: Acute stress amplifies sex differences in risk seeking; making women more risk avoidant and men more risk seeking. Evolutionary principles may explain these stress-induced sex differences in risk taking behavior.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

Interaction between sex and stress in risk taking.Average number of balloon pumps on trials without explosions for males and females who were equated for their cortisol stress response. Error bars represent standard errors.
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pone-0006002-g001: Interaction between sex and stress in risk taking.Average number of balloon pumps on trials without explosions for males and females who were equated for their cortisol stress response. Error bars represent standard errors.

Mentions: As outlined above, women had a larger cortisol response to the cold pressor stress than men did. To test whether the sex by stress condition interaction for risk taking would hold up when cortisol responses in males and females were not significantly different, we removed the two males with the lowest cortisol change scores and the two females with the highest cortisol change scores among those in the stress condition, while keeping all the control participants. To confirm that the males and females in this group did not differ significantly in cortisol responses, we conducted an ANOVA examining cortisol change. As seen for the whole sample, there were significantly greater change scores in the stress condition (MΔ = .11±.07) than in the control condition (MΔ = .00±.06), F(1,37) = 5.12, p<.05, ηp2 = .12. Importantly, the interaction of stress condition and sex on cortisol change was no longer significant, F(1,37) = .89, p>.3, ηp2 = .02. Thus, among this subset of participants, the stress reactions for males and females were not statistically different. An ANOVA examining the average number of pumps on non-explosion trials for these participants revealed an interaction of stress condition and sex, F(1,37) = 5.26, p<.05, ηp2 = .12, which replicates the interaction seen among the broader group of participants. As shown in Figure 1, the sex difference in risk seeking was greater in the stress condition than in the control condition. This indicates that the sex differences in how stress affected decision making were not simply the result of sex differences in the intensity of the cortisol response to the stressor.


Acute stress increases sex differences in risk seeking in the balloon analogue risk task.

Lighthall NR, Mather M, Gorlick MA - PLoS ONE (2009)

Interaction between sex and stress in risk taking.Average number of balloon pumps on trials without explosions for males and females who were equated for their cortisol stress response. Error bars represent standard errors.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC2698212&req=5

pone-0006002-g001: Interaction between sex and stress in risk taking.Average number of balloon pumps on trials without explosions for males and females who were equated for their cortisol stress response. Error bars represent standard errors.
Mentions: As outlined above, women had a larger cortisol response to the cold pressor stress than men did. To test whether the sex by stress condition interaction for risk taking would hold up when cortisol responses in males and females were not significantly different, we removed the two males with the lowest cortisol change scores and the two females with the highest cortisol change scores among those in the stress condition, while keeping all the control participants. To confirm that the males and females in this group did not differ significantly in cortisol responses, we conducted an ANOVA examining cortisol change. As seen for the whole sample, there were significantly greater change scores in the stress condition (MΔ = .11±.07) than in the control condition (MΔ = .00±.06), F(1,37) = 5.12, p<.05, ηp2 = .12. Importantly, the interaction of stress condition and sex on cortisol change was no longer significant, F(1,37) = .89, p>.3, ηp2 = .02. Thus, among this subset of participants, the stress reactions for males and females were not statistically different. An ANOVA examining the average number of pumps on non-explosion trials for these participants revealed an interaction of stress condition and sex, F(1,37) = 5.26, p<.05, ηp2 = .12, which replicates the interaction seen among the broader group of participants. As shown in Figure 1, the sex difference in risk seeking was greater in the stress condition than in the control condition. This indicates that the sex differences in how stress affected decision making were not simply the result of sex differences in the intensity of the cortisol response to the stressor.

Bottom Line: Research on behavioral and brain differences in stress responses suggest that stress might have different effects on risk taking in males and females.Stress increased risk taking among men but decreased it among women.Evolutionary principles may explain these stress-induced sex differences in risk taking behavior.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Davis School of Gerontology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA. nichole.lighthall@usc.edu

ABSTRACT

Background: Decisions involving risk often must be made under stressful circumstances. Research on behavioral and brain differences in stress responses suggest that stress might have different effects on risk taking in males and females.

Methodology/principal findings: In this study, participants played a computer game designed to measure risk taking (the Balloon Analogue Risk Task) fifteen minutes after completing a stress challenge or control task. Stress increased risk taking among men but decreased it among women.

Conclusions/significance: Acute stress amplifies sex differences in risk seeking; making women more risk avoidant and men more risk seeking. Evolutionary principles may explain these stress-induced sex differences in risk taking behavior.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus