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

T. Smeets*, P. Van Ruitenbeek, B. Hartogsveld, Conny W.E.M. Quaedflieg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-71
JournalBrain and Cognition
Volume133
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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Keywords

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

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