Combined Effects of Glucocorticoid and Noradrenergic Activity on Loss Aversion

Zsofia Margittai, Gideon Nave, Marijn Van Wingerden, Alfons Schnitzler, Lars Schwabe, Tobias Kalenscher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Loss aversion is a well-known behavioral regularity in financial decision making, describing humans' tendency to overweigh losses compared to gains of the same amount. Recent research indicates that stress and associated hormonal changes affect loss aversion, yet the underlying neuroendocrine mechanisms are still poorly understood. Here, we investigated the causal influence of two major stress neuromodulators, cortisol and noradrenaline, on loss aversion during financial decision making. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled between-subject design, we orally administered either the α2-adrenergic antagonist yohimbine (increasing noradrenergic stimulation), hydrocortisone, both substances, or a placebo to healthy young men. We tested the treatments' influence on a financial decision-making task measuring loss aversion and risk attitude. We found that both drugs combined, relative to either drug by itself, reduced loss aversion in the absence of an effect on risk attitude or choice consistency. Our data suggest that concurrent glucocorticoid and noradrenergic activity prompts an alignment of reward- with loss-sensitivity, and thus diminishes loss aversion. Our results have implications for the understanding of the susceptibility to biases in decision making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)334-341
Number of pages8
JournalNeuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


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