Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of Psychology


Clinical Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (ii, 43 pages) : black and white illustrations.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Edelgard Wulfert

Committee Members

Elana B Gordis


Addiction, Decision making, Heart rate, Psychophysiology, Risk taking, Skin conductance, Stress (Psychology), Gambling, Sex differences (Psychology)

Subject Categories



The current study examined the effects of a social stressor on subsequent performance on the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT), and the role of sex on this relationship. Fifty-six participants (24 men and 32 women) were assigned randomly to a social stressor (Trier Social Stress Test) or a control condition while their subjective emotional reactions and their physiological arousal (skin conductance and heart rate) were measured. Findings showed that participants in the stress condition responded with higher skin-conductance levels and heart rate during the social stressor, in addition to reporting greater negative affect directly following the social stressor. They also made significantly less advantageous decisions on the IGT compared to participants in the control condition. A regression analysis revealed that among men, higher levels of heart rate were directly correlated with poorer performance on the IGT, whereas for women the relationship between heart rate and performance on the IGT was curvilinear. Exploratory analyses showed that lower levels of skin conductance within the stress condition were associated with greater substance use. Implications of the effects of subjective and physiological stress reactions and sex on decision making are discussed.

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