Exposure to acute stress enhances decision-making competence: Evidence for the role of DHEA

Grant S. Shields, Jovian C W Lam, Brian C. Trainor, Andrew P. Yonelinas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Exposure to acute stress can impact performance on numerous cognitive abilities, but little is known about how acute stress affects real-world decision-making ability. In the present study, we induced acute stress with a standard laboratory task involving uncontrollable socio-evaluative stress and subsequently assessed decision-making ability using the Adult Decision Making Competence index. In addition, we took baseline and post-test saliva samples from participants to examine associations between decision-making competence and adrenal hormones. Participants in the stress induction group showed enhanced decision-making competence, relative to controls. Further, although both cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) reactivity predicted decision-making competence when considered in isolation, DHEA was a significantly better predictor than cortisol when both hormones were considered simultaneously. Thus, our results show that exposure to acute stress can have beneficial effects on the cognitive ability underpinning real-world decision-making and that this effect relates to DHEA reactivity more than cortisol.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-60
Number of pages10
StatePublished - May 1 2016


  • Acute stress
  • Cortisol
  • Decision-making
  • Decision-making competence
  • DHEA
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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