March 29, 2016
University College London

Uncertainty can cause more stress than inevitable pain

Knowing that there is a small chance of getting a painful electric shock can lead to significantly more stress than knowing that you will definitely be shocked

The study, published in Nature Communications, found that situations in which subjects had a 50% chance of receiving a shock were the most stressful while 0% and 100% chances were the least stressful. People whose stress levels tracked uncertainty more closely were better at guessing whether or not they would receive a shock, suggesting that stress may inform judgments of risk. More...