Balancing between goal-directed and habitual responding following acute stress

Bart Hartogsveld*, Peter van Ruitenbeek, Conny W. E. M. Quaedflieg, Tom Smeets

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Instrumental learning is regulated by two memory systems: a relatively rigid but efficient habit system and a flexible but resource-demanding goal-directed system. Previous work has demonstrated that exposure to acute stress may shift the balance between these systems toward the habitual system. In the current study, we used a 2-day outcome devatuation paradigm with a 75% reward contingency rate and altered food reward categories to replicate and extend our previous findings. Participants learned neutral stimulus-response-reward associations on the first day. On the second day, rewards were devalued by eating to satiety. Subsequently, acute stress was induced in half of the participants using the Maastricht Acute Stress Test, white the other half engaged in a nonstressful control task. Finally, relative goal-directed versus habitual behavior was evaluated in a slips-of-action phase, where more slips-of-action indicate a shift toward the habitual system. Results showed that participants successfully acquired the stimutus- response- reward associations, that devaluation was effective, and that stressed participants displayed significant increases in cortisol and blood pressure. Stress led participants to commit more slips-of-action compared with nonstressed controls. The current study extends previous work, showing that the employed paradigm and outcome devaluation procedure are boundary conditions to the stress-induced shift in instrumental recording.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-111
JournalExperimental Psychology
Volume67
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • stress
  • costisol
  • habits
  • instrumental learning
  • PSYCHOSOCIAL STRESS
  • PARTIAL-REINFORCEMENT
  • TEST MAST
  • MEMORY
  • EXTINCTION
  • RESPONSES
  • INSIGHTS
  • BEHAVIOR
  • SYSTEMS
  • REWARD

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