Psychologists: Men make less selfish decisions under stress

Psychologists: Men make less selfish decisions under stress

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How does stress affect moral decisions?
Each of us has to make a number of moral decisions in the course of our lives. Many of these decisions can be made as quickly as possible in today's society. Those affected are often under considerable stress. Sometimes it is not easy to choose between your own advantages and a morally correct decision. German researchers have now investigated whether acute stress affects our moral decisions.

The researchers from the district clinic of Regensburg and the University of Regensburg found in their investigation that men act less selfishly in moral situations in stressful situations. The experts published the results of their study in the journal "Hormones and Behavior".

How would you decide?
Everyday life involves many moral decisions. Some of them have to be taken in a hurry or under great stress. What do you do if you are in a hurry because you have to make an important appointment and, for example, an old woman needs help to get through a busy street? Do you help the woman or is your appointment more important to you? Such a question motivated a research group from Germany to investigate the effects of acute stress on the moral decision-making behavior of men.

Subjects were divided into two groups
For the current study, the team of scientists led by Prof. Dr. Brigitte Kudielka, Chair of Medical Psychology, Psychological Diagnostics and Methodology at the University of Regensburg, a total of fifty healthy young men. These subjects either participated in the so-called Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) or were only confronted with a stress-free control condition, the authors explain.

Physicians measured the levels of the hormone cortisol according to the TSST
The TSST is a standard protocol used worldwide. This method intentionally creates moderate psychosocial stress in a behavioral laboratory, the researchers say. After the test, participants had to answer questions about 28 everyday moral decisions. In these situations there was always a selfless or selfish answer as an alternative. Experts should also state what feelings they had when making a decision and how confident they were that they made the right decision, the experts explain. In addition, the test subjects had to fill out various self-report questionnaires. The doctors also explained that saliva samples were taken at various times by the participating men. The samples were then used to measure the stress hormone cortisol.

Stressed subjects made less selfish choices
The results of the study show that the subjects under stress made less selfish decisions when making moral decisions compared to men from the control group. The selfless decisions were also made with greater certainty, the authors say. There were also more positive emotions compared to selfish decisions.

Stress can also lead to positive, improved social consequences
There was also a positive relationship between the level of cortisol and the so-called altruistic decision-making behavior, the scientists explain. The hormone cortisol could therefore be responsible for the identified effects, the experts speculate. The investigation of the research team headed by Professor Dr. Brigitte Kudielka shows that the perceived stress can also have so-called prosocial consequences and should therefore not only be associated with negative effects. (as)

Author and source information

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  4. Hudhayfah

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  7. Tantalus

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