Stress-Induced Cortisol Facilitates Threat-Related Decision Making Among Police Officers

Behavioral Neuroscience 2012, Vol. 126, No. 1, 167–174

Columbia Business School Research Paper No. 12/26

8 Pages Posted: 3 May 2012

See all articles by Modupe Akinola

Modupe Akinola

Columbia University - Columbia Business School

Wendy Berry Mendes

University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)

Date Written: June 1, 2011

Abstract

Previous research suggests that cortisol can affect cognitive functions such as memory, decision making, and attentiveness to threat-related cues. Here, we examine whether increases in cortisol, brought on by an acute social stressor, influence threat-related decision making. Eighty-one police officers completed a standardized laboratory stressor and then immediately completed a computer simulated decision making task designed to examine decisions to accurately shoot or not shoot armed and unarmed Black and White targets. Results indicated that police officers who had larger cortisol increases to the social-stress task subsequently made fewer errors when deciding to shoot armed Black targets relative to armed White targets, suggesting that hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) activation may exacerbate vigilance for threat cues. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of threat-initiated decision making.

Keywords: cortisol, stress, decision making, threat, police

Suggested Citation

Akinola, Modupe and Mendes, Wendy Berry, Stress-Induced Cortisol Facilitates Threat-Related Decision Making Among Police Officers (June 1, 2011). Behavioral Neuroscience 2012, Vol. 126, No. 1, 167–174, Columbia Business School Research Paper No. 12/26, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2049916

Modupe Akinola (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Columbia Business School ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Wendy Berry Mendes

University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) ( email )

Third Avenue and Parnassus
San Francisco, CA 94143
United States

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