Uncertainty can be more stressful, says study

November 21st, 2008 - 1:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Nov 21 (IANS) Uncertainty can be more stressful for some people than a clear negative response, says a new study.The study at the University of Toronto here says that some people find it more difficult to deal with ambiguity than with clear negative response on any issue.

To know how people reacted to negative and ambiguous feedback, researchers put participants through a set of tasks, a university statement said Thursday.

The researchers measured participants’ brain activity as they completed these tasks while being given clear positive, clear negative or ambiguous feedback.

Measuring the response in their brain’s anterior cingulate cortex - an area which records anxiety related to conflict, the researchers found that neurotic individuals recorded higher activity in that brain area when they got uncertain feedback, compared to when they got clear-cut negative feedback.

Study author Jacob Hirsh said: “Uncertainty can be very stressful.

“What this study shows is that neurotic individuals are actually more comfortable with clear negative information than they are with uncertainty - even when the outcome of that uncertainty could be positive.

“In other words, people who are high in neuroticism appear to prefer the devil they know to the devil they don’t know.”

The study has been published in the latest issue of Psychological Science journal.

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