Cumulative lifetime stressor exposure assessed by the STRAIN predicts economic ambiguity aversion

Candace M. Raio, Benjamin B. Lu, Michael Grubb, Grant S. Shields, George M. Slavich, Paul Glimcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Uncertainty is inherent in most decisions humans make. Economists distinguish between two types of decision-making under non-certain conditions: those involving risk (i.e., known outcome probabilities) and those that involve ambiguity (i.e., unknown outcome probabilities). Prior research has identified individual differences that explain risk preferences, but little is known about factors associated with ambiguity aversion. Here, we hypothesized that cumulative exposure to major psychosocial stressors over the lifespan might be one factor that predicts individuals’ ambiguity aversion. Across two studies (Study 1: n = 58, Mage = 25.7; Study 2: n = 188, Mage = 39.81), we used a comprehensive lifetime stressor exposure inventory (i.e., the Stress and Adversity Inventory for Adults, or STRAIN) and a standard economic approach to quantify risk and ambiguity preferences. Greater lifetime stressor exposure as measured by the STRAIN, particularly in early life, was associated with higher aversion to ambiguity but not risk preferences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1686
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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