Stress potentiates decision biases: A stress induced deliberation-to-intuition (SIDI) model

Rongjun Yu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

101 Citations (Scopus)


Humans often make decisions in stressful situations, for example when the stakes are high and the potential consequences severe, or when the clock is ticking and the task demand is overwhelming. In response, a whole train of biological responses to stress has evolved to allow organisms to make a fight-or-flight response. When under stress, fast and effortless heuristics may dominate over slow and demanding deliberation in making decisions under uncertainty. Here, I review evidence from behavioral studies and neuroimaging research on decision making under stress and propose that stress elicits a switch from an analytic reasoning system to intuitive processes, and predict that this switch is associated with diminished activity in the prefrontal executive control regions and exaggerated activity in subcortical reactive emotion brain areas. Previous studies have shown that when stressed, individuals tend to make more habitual responses than goal-directed choices, be less likely to adjust their initial judgment, and rely more on gut feelings in social situations. It is possible that stress influences the arbitration between the emotion responses in subcortical regions and deliberative processes in the prefrontal cortex, so that final decisions are based on unexamined innate responses. Future research may further test this 'stress induced deliberation-to-intuition' (SIDI) model and examine its underlying neural mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-95
Number of pages13
JournalNeurobiology of Stress
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

User-Defined Keywords

  • Cortisol
  • Decision making
  • Stress


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