From all the times that you went shopping with your mom, got in a huge fight, and came back with a purple striped romper, you may be aware that stress can do a number on your decision-making skills. Now scientists have some ideas about exactly how it screws up your ability to choose.
According to ScienceDaily, psychologists Mara Mather and Nichole R. Lighthall just completed a review of the literature on stress and decisions. They found that, even though you'd think being stressed would turn people into pessimists, it actually makes us focus too much on the upside of our decisions. Says Mather, "Stress seems to help people learn from positive feedback and impairs their learning from negative feedback." Maybe when we're freaking out, any option seems pretty good — a sort of "any port in a storm" effect. Unfortunately, when the adrenaline wears out, we may discover that we have purchased a spaghetti-strap tank top the color of barf (true story).
Mather and Lighthall also point out that men and women react somewhat differently to stress — men tend to take more risks, while women take fewer. The latter may seem like a good strategy, until you realize you're several miles past your destination because there was never a truly perfect time to change lanes (also true story). In general, it's probably a good idea to get as calm as possible when you have a big choice to make, which is difficult, since choices themselves are stressful. In these situations, I recommend alcohol. Everyone knows drunk people make the best decisions.
Stress Changes How People Make Decisions [ScienceDaily]
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