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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2016 Feb;64:131-5. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.11.018. Epub 2015 Nov 24.

Exogenous cortisol causes a shift from deliberative to intuitive thinking.

Author information

1
Comparative Psychology, Heinrich Heine University, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany. Electronic address: Zsofia.Margittai@hhu.de.
2
Computation & Neural Systems, Caltech 228-77, Pasadena 91125, CA, USA.
3
Comparative Psychology, Heinrich Heine University, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany; Chair of Marketing, Heinrich Heine University, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany.
4
Comparative Psychology, Heinrich Heine University, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany.
5
Department of Cognitive Psychology, Institute for Psychology, University of Hamburg, 20146 Hamburg, Germany.

Abstract

People often rely on intuitive judgments at the expense of deliberate reasoning, but what determines the dominance of intuition over deliberation is not well understood. Here, we employed a psychopharmacological approach to unravel the role of two major endocrine stress mediators, cortisol and noradrenaline, in cognitive reasoning. Healthy participants received placebo, cortisol (hydrocortisone) and/or yohimbine, a drug that increases noradrenergic stimulation, before performing the cognitive reflection test (CRT). We found that cortisol impaired performance in the CRT by biasing responses toward intuitive, but incorrect answers. Elevated stimulation of the noradrenergic system, however, had no effect. We interpret our results in the context of the dual systems theory of judgment and decision making. We propose that cortisol causes a shift from deliberate, reflective cognition toward automatic, reflexive information processing.

KEYWORDS:

CRT; Cognitive reflection; Cortisol; Decision biases; Deliberate; Intuitive; Stress

PMID:
26658173
DOI:
10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.11.018
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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