Social anxiety, acute social stress, and reward parameters interact to predict risky decision-making among adolescents

Jessica M. Richards, Nilam Patel, Teresa Daniele-Zegarelli, Laura MacPherson, C. W. Lejuez, Monique Ernst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Risk-taking behavior increases during adolescence, leading to potentially disastrous consequences. Social anxiety emerges in adolescence and may compound risk-taking propensity, particularly during stress and when reward potential is high. However, the manner in which social anxiety, stress, and reward parameters interact to impact adolescent risk-taking is unclear. To clarify this question, a community sample of 35 adolescents (15-18. yo), characterized as having high or low social anxiety, participated in a study over two separate days, during each of which they were exposed to either a social stress or a control condition, while performing a risky decision-making task. The task manipulated, orthogonally, reward magnitude and probability across trials. Three findings emerged. First, reward magnitude had a greater impact on the rate of risky decisions in high social anxiety (HSA) than low social anxiety (LSA) adolescents. Second, reaction times (RTs) were similar during the social stress and the control conditions for the HSA group, whereas the LSA group's RTs differed between conditions. Third, HSA adolescents showed the longest RTs on the most negative trials. These findings suggest that risk-taking in adolescents is modulated by context and reward parameters differentially as a function of social anxiety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-34
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Anxiety Disorders
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Expected value
  • Gambling
  • Uncertainty
  • Wheel of fortune
  • Youths

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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