All Stressed Out? Chocoholic Study Suggests it May Not be Worth the Reward

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Geneva suggests that though being stressed may make people work harder for rewards, the resulting reward itself may not have a higher pleasure associated with it. The research was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition and included 36 students who claimed to love chocolate. Eighteen of the students put their hands in ice water to simulate stress, while the other half did so with warmer water. The level of stress was measured using cortisol levels in the saliva of the subjects before and after exposure to the water. The group exhibiting higher stress levels found it much more difficult to smell chocolate than the others, but when asked to evaluate who satisfying the smell was, the groups did not significantly differ in their responses.

Tobias Brosch, a contributing researcher of the study, says,

Stress seems to flip a switch in our functioning: If a stressed person encounters an image or a sound associated with a pleasant object, this may drive them to invest an inordinate amount of effort to obtain it.”

Such disorders associated with such a response include addiction, gambling and binge eating. Further studies are recommended to explore the effect of everyday life stressors on individual wants and desires.


Read more here- “Being Stressed Makes You Work Harder for Rewards, but You Don’t Feel Greater,” (Elahe Izadi, The Washington Post)


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Olivia is a graduate of Villanova University where she studied Economics and History, minoring in Gender and Women's Studies. She also has experience working with federal legislatures on health care policy, women's issues, and Internet safety.


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