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Stress-induced reliance on habitual behavior is moderated by cortisol reactivity

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Abstract

Instrumental learning, i.e., learning that specific behaviors lead to desired outcomes, occurs through goal-directed and habit memory systems. Exposure to acute stress has been shown to result in less goal-directed control, thus rendering behavior more habitual. The aim of the current studies was to replicate and extend findings on stress-induced prompting of habitual responding and specifically focused on the role of stress-induced cortisol reactivity. Study 1 used an established outcome devaluation paradigm to assess goal-directed and habitual control. Study 2 utilized a modified version of this paradigm that was intended to establish stronger habitual responding through more extensive reward training and applying a relevant behavioral devaluation procedure (i.e., eating to satiety). Both studies failed to replicate that stress overall, i.e., independent of cortisol reactivity, shifted behavior from goal-directed to habitual control. However, both studies found that relative to stress-exposed cortisol non-responders and no-stress controls, participants displaying stress-induced cortisol reactivity displayed prominent habitual responding. These findings highlight the importance of stress-induced cortisol reactivity in facilitating habits.

    Research areas

  • Journal Article, INDUCED SHIFT, GOAL-DIRECTED ACTION, Cortisol, TEST MAST, Stress, MULTIPLE MEMORY-SYSTEMS, RESPONSES, Instrumental learning, ADAPTATION, PSYCHOSOCIAL STRESS, Habits, STRIATUM, WORKING-MEMORY, HORMONES
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Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-71
Number of pages12
JournalBrain and Cognition
Volume133
Early online date25 May 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019