Stress, uncertainty and decision confidence

Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2011 Dec;36(4):273-9. doi: 10.1007/s10484-011-9167-9.


We successfully manipulated decision confidence in a probabilistic prediction task by means of stress as induced by excessive cognitive demands. In particular, our results indicate that decisions (based on high and low, but not intermediate levels of uncertainty) made under stress (confirmed by skin conductance measures) are associated with increased confidence when outcome probabilities are incompletely known (20% residual uncertainty). A different pattern was found when outcome probabilities were completely known (0% residual uncertainty). Here, stress led to decreased decision confidence when decisions were associated with intermediate levels of uncertainty but had no effect in case of high and low levels of uncertainty. In addition we provide evidence for ambiguity--(understood as implicit-risk) assessment being impaired under stress conditions.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Biofeedback, Psychology / methods*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Female
  • Galvanic Skin Response / physiology
  • Gambling / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Problem Solving / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Risk-Taking
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • Uncertainty
  • Young Adult