Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Stressed Older Drivers Are Three Times More Likely To Brake Than Calm Drivers

Date:
November 5, 2008
Source:
University of Southern California
Summary:
Life can be stressful, whether you're an individual watching the stock market crash or a commuter stuck in traffic. A new study, forthcoming in the journal Psychological Science, examines how stress affects decision-making and finds that older adults alter their behavior more than young adults when under stress -- particularly in situations involving risk.

older adults alter their behavior more than young adults when under stress — particularly in situations involving risk.
Credit: iStockphoto/Brian Toro

Life can be stressful, whether you're an individual watching the stock market crash or a commuter stuck in traffic. A new study, forthcoming in the journal Psychological Science, examines how stress affects decision-making and finds that older adults alter their behavior more than young adults when under stress — particularly in situations involving risk.

"People haven't looked at how stress affects decision making, even though so many of our decisions are made under stress," explained Mara Mather of USC Davis School of Gerontology, lead author of the study. "There's very little information about this whole topic, and, when you get to age differences, there's even less."

Mather and her colleagues Marissa Gorlick, of the USC Emotion and Cognition Lab, and Nichole Kryla-Lighthall, a USC doctoral student, exposed young adults (18 to 33) and older adults (65 to 89) to a stressful event, in this case, holding a hand in ice-cold water for three minutes.

Participants were then asked to play a driving game correlating to a real-life situation in which taking a small amount of risk is common: whether to go for it on a yellow light. Participants started at a green light, and points were awarded for every second spent driving during a yellow, but lost if the light turned red while driving. The length of time for the yellow lights was determined randomly.

In other words, Mather explained, participants had to decide to take some risk — driving during a yellow light — to score any points at all.

"This is the way life is, quite often. To make more money in your investments, you have to take risk. To end up dating someone, you have to take the risk of going up and saying hello," Mather said. "When there's a potential payoff, most of the time you have to take some risk."

In the control group, which was not exposed to ice-cold water, older adults were actually better drivers than younger adults, the researchers found, scoring higher on the game.

However, in the stressed group, older adults were not only more cautious but were also jerkier drivers, braking and restarting almost three times as much as their calmer peers.

The differences in the effects of stress were consistent even when the researchers accounted for gender, level of education, mood and health self-ratings.

"The everyday commute can be stressful: someone cuts you off, you're late already. Are you more likely to try and take a risk than if you weren't stressed out?" Mather asks. "Our results indicate that stress changes older adults' strategies."

The exposure to ice-cold water caused a rise in levels of the hormone cortisol, measured in saliva. Cortisol levels increased significantly (and about the amount) among stressed younger and older adults, but did not change significantly from pre-test levels for the control group, which was not exposed to ice-cold water.

As Mather explained: "The brain regions that are involved in and activated by stress overlap quite a lot with the brain regions that are involved in decision making and, in particular, in decisions about risk."

The study was supported by the National Institute of Aging.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Southern California. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mara Mather, Marissa Gorlick, and Nichole Kryla-Lighthall. To brake or accelerate when the light turns yellow? Stress reduces older adults' risk taking in a driving game. Psychological Science, (in press)

Cite This Page:

University of Southern California. "Stressed Older Drivers Are Three Times More Likely To Brake Than Calm Drivers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 November 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081028074331.htm>.
University of Southern California. (2008, November 5). Stressed Older Drivers Are Three Times More Likely To Brake Than Calm Drivers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081028074331.htm
University of Southern California. "Stressed Older Drivers Are Three Times More Likely To Brake Than Calm Drivers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081028074331.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Newsy (July 24, 2014) Sheik Umar Khan has treated many of the people infected in the Ebola outbreak, and now he's become one of them. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

AFP (July 24, 2014) America's death penalty debate raged Thursday after it took nearly two hours for Arizona to execute a prisoner who lost a Supreme Court battle challenging the experimental lethal drug cocktail. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

AFP (July 24, 2014) China's elderly population is expanding so quickly that children struggle to look after them, pushing them to do something unexpected in Chinese society- move their parents into a nursing home. Duration: 02:07 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins