Intertemporal choices - involving decisions which trade off instant and delayed outcomes - are often made under stress. It remains unknown, however, whether and how stress affects intertemporal choice. We subjected 142 healthy male subjects to a laboratory stress or control protocol, and asked them to make a series of intertemporal choices either directly after stress, or 20 minutes later (resulting in four experimental groups). Based on theory and evidence from behavioral economics and cellular neuroscience, we predicted a bidirectional effect of stress on intertemporal choice, with increases in impatience or present bias immediately after stress, but decreases in present bias or impatience when subjects are tested 20 minutes later. However, our results show no effects of stress on intertemporal choice at either time point, and individual differences in stress reactivity (changes in stress hormone levels over time) are not related to individual differences in intertemporal choice. Together, we did not find support for the hypothesis that psychosocial laboratory stressors affect intertemporal choice.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology