New research, to be published July 1 in the journal PLoS One, shows that men under stress may be more likely to take risks, correlating to such real-life behavior as gambling, smoking, unsafe sex and illegal drug use.
In contrast, stressed women moderate their behavior and may be less likely to make risky choices, the study found.
"Evolutionarily speaking, it's perhaps more beneficial for men to be aggressive in stressful, high-arousal situations when risk and reward are involved," said Nichole Lighthall of the University of Southern California Davis School of Gerontology and lead author of the paper. "Applied to financial risk taking, it's akin to competition for territory or other valuable resources."
The researchers asked participants to play a game called the Balloon Analogue Risk Task in which inflating a balloon earns money (five cents per pump). Participants were told that they could cash out their earnings by clicking a "Collect $$$" button at any point in the game.
However, the balloon would explode if it was inflated beyond its randomly determined breakpoint. All winnings for exploded balloons would be lost.
"One valuable aspect of the [balloon task] is its predictive validity for real-world impulsivity," Lighthall explained. "Some risk taking was necessary to make gains, but excessive risk was associated with diminishing returns. If you always clicked and never cashed out, you would lose every time."
The balloon task has been previously used to assess tolerance for risky behavior among inner-city adolescents and substance abusers, among others.
"Obviously, there are situations in the real world where risky behavior would not be beneficial," Lighthall said. "Sometimes being conservative, thoughtful and taking it slow are good things."
In the control group, men and women displayed statistically similar levels of risk taking, inflating the balloon about 40 times on average.
However, women in the stressed group only inflated the balloon an average of 32 times – more than 30 percent less often than their stressed male counterparts, who inflated the balloon an average of 48 times.
"Men seem to enter more risky financial situations than women, which was part of the impetus for our study," Lighthall said. "But only in the stressed condition did we see any statistical differences in risky behavior between men and women."
Stressful experiences have been shown to stimulate the release of cortisol, commonly known as the "stress hormone." Participants randomly assigned to the stress group held a hand in ice-cold water, which raised cortisol levels, particularly among female participants. No participants were using hormone birth control.
According to Lighthall, future research might use neuroimaging to explore how the brain processes stress or examine whether psychological stress, such as anticipating giving a speech, would yield similar results as the physical stress manipulation used in this study.
Mara Mather, director of the Emotion and Cognition Lab at USC and associate professor of psychology and
gerontology at the USC Davis School of Gerontology, and Marissa Gorlick, also of the USC Davis School of Gerontology, were co-authors of the study.
Suzanne Wu | EurekAlert!
The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft
Europe’s Demographic Future. Where the Regions Are Heading after a Decade of Crises
10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy