Social stress facilitates risk in youths

J Exp Psychol Gen. 2016 Apr;145(4):467-85. doi: 10.1037/xge0000147. Epub 2016 Feb 11.


This research examined the influence of social stress on risk processes in youths. Study 1 (N = 89) randomly assigned male youths to perform either a stressful social-evaluative or nonstressful control task followed by a risk-perception measure. Compared to controls, social stress participants perceived less risk in their environment. Study 2 (N = 188) extended findings by testing effects of social stress on risk perception in males and females, and across 3 age groups: teenagers (15-19), young adults (25-40), and older adults (60-75). Replicating Study 1, teenagers experiencing social stress perceived less risk than age-matched controls. However, adults assigned to experience social stress reported greater risk perception compared to their age-matched controls. Effects of social stress also extended to risk-taking behavior. Stressed teenagers engaged in more risk-taking behavior relative to controls, and showed increased reward and lowered cost sensitivity during decision-making. These findings offer basic and translational value regarding factors that influence how youths evaluate risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Social Perception*
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Young Adult


  • Hydrocortisone