Back to History Current Version

Effects of Stress on Preferences, Beliefs, and Constraints

Last registered on July 26, 2018


Trial Information

General Information

Effects of Stress on Preferences, Beliefs, and Constraints
Initial registration date
February 18, 2018

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
February 19, 2018, 3:51 PM EST

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.

Last updated
July 26, 2018, 11:25 AM EDT

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.



Primary Investigator

Stockholm University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Loyola Marymount University

Additional Trial Information

Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
We conduct a randomized laboratory experiment examining the e ffects of stress (implemented using four methods) on temporal discounting, eff ort provision, and executive control. Our study includes 1142 subjects from the informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya. Respondents are randomly administered either a control or a treatment (stress) protocol, for seven consecutive days. This allows us to estimate the causal impacts of stress on decision-making after one and seven days of administration.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Haushofer, Johannes and Prachi Jain. 2018. "Effects of Stress on Preferences, Beliefs, and Constraints." AEA RCT Registry. July 26.
Former Citation
Haushofer, Johannes and Prachi Jain. 2018. "Effects of Stress on Preferences, Beliefs, and Constraints." AEA RCT Registry. July 26.
Experimental Details


We induce stress in four diff erent ways across subjects: the Trier Social Stress Task (TSST) which induces psychosocial stress, physical stress using the Cold Pressor Task , fi nancial stress using the Centipede Game, and using hydrocortisone administration to induce the neurobiological consequences of stress.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Self-efficacy, executive function, and time preferences.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
See the uploaded Pre-analysis Plan for a thorough description of all outcome measures.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Salivary Cortisol, Self-reported Stress, Heart Rate and Beliefs about treatment
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
See the attached Pre-analysis Plan for more detail.

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
See the attached pre-analysis plan for in-depth explanation of the experimental design.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
86 cohorts.
Sample size: planned number of observations
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Centipede Game Stressor - 278
Trier Social Stress Test Stressor - 285
Cold Pressor Task Stressor - 278
Hydrocortisone Administration - 301
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Princeton University Institutional Review Board
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

Analysis Plan Documents


MD5: 675d3bbdaf6f3a39dcff336660b312b1

SHA1: 88abfa0b1f7031bdbe99692cbe417b14399ee9b4

Uploaded At: February 18, 2018


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

There is information in this trial unavailable to the public. Use the button below to request access.

Request Information


Is the intervention completed?
Intervention Completion Date
January 31, 2017, 12:00 +00:00
Data Collection Complete
Data Collection Completion Date
January 31, 2017, 12:00 +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
1149 participants across 8 clusters (4 stressor treatments + corresponding controls)
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
2111 participant-day observations
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

There is information in this trial unavailable to the public. Use the button below to request access.

Request Information

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Recent work in behavioral economics has shown that stress increases choices of smaller, sooner gains relative to larger, later monetary gains. The simplest model that explains these findings is one in which stress increases the discount rate or present bias. A sharp test of this model is provided by intertemporal choices in the losses or effort domain: this model predicts that stress should lead to increased choice of larger, later losses or effortful tasks relative to smaller, earlier ones. Here we show suggestive evidence for the opposite result: using a laboratory experiment with 578 participants from informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya, we find that stress increases choices of smaller, sooner outcomes across domains. Specifically, we show that the effect is present in monetary gains and losses, and effortful tasks; and for both a psychosocial stressor (Trier Social Stress Test), and the pharmacological elevation of stress hormone levels using hydrocortisone. Importantly, the results are statistically robust only in the absence of clustering, and should thus be regarded as tentative. However, they are at least initially consistent with a model in which stress increases discounting in the gains domain but decreases it in the losses and effort domains; or with a model in which stress decreases the utility of any future outcome. Thus, stress may affect intertemporal choice, but may do so through mechanisms other than a simple increase in discount rates or present bias.
Haushofer, Johannes, Prachi Jain, Abednego Musau, and David Ndetei. "Stress may increase choice of sooner outcomes, but not temporal discounting." Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 183 (2021): 377-396.

Reports & Other Materials