You probably know that stress can affect your ability to make smart decisions. While that fact probably doesn’t surprise you, the reason it’s true might.
Researchers at the University of Southern California found that stress causes you to overestimate the positive aspects of a choice and downplay the negatives. Because stress increases your dopamine levels (the brain neurotransmitter that plays an important role in reward-seeking behavior), it makes you gravitate towards positive stimuli and steer clear of the negative. For instance, if you’re thinking of taking a new job, you might overestimate the benefits of a higher salary and underestimate the impact of a longer commute.
Another interesting finding in the research showed that while men and women have similar decision-making behaviors under stress, when it comes to risk-taking decisions, the sexes diverge. Under stress, men tend to increase risk-taking behavior in pursuit of greater rewards, whereas women tend to play it safer under stress.
When you’re making choices, be sure to consider the level of stress you’re under in order to make the best decision.