The impact of stress on risk perceptions and risk behaviors
As the national conversation regarding the legalization of marijuana in the United States continues to emerge as a pressing issue, the rates of simultaneous marijuana and alcohol consumption prior to driving are likely to rise. Research suggests that alcohol and marijuana consumed independently at low levels results in minimal impairment on driving performance. Conversely, driving performance is dramatically impaired when small amounts of marijuana and alcohol are simultaneously consumed. The current study investigated the impact of social stress on the perceived risk of Driving Under the Influence of Small Amounts of Marijuana and Alcohol (DUI-SAMA). In addition, the current study examined the impact of social stress on risk behaviors as indexed by performance on the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART). Participants were randomly assigned to a social stress or no stress condition and three hypotheses were tested: H1) moderate levels of social stress would increase a participant’s willingness to DUI-SAMA under urgent and non-urgent conditions; H2) moderate levels of social stress would decrease the perceived risk of DUI-SAMA; and H3) moderate levels of stress would increase risk-taking behavior as indexed by performance on the BART. Contrary to the hypotheses, the present study found that social stress decreased a participant’s willingness to DUI-SAMA under urgent conditions and did not influence semi-urgent or non-urgent conditions. Group differences were not detected when examining the perceived risk of DUI-SAMA or risk-taking behavior as indexed by performance on the BART. Exploratory analyses suggest that marijuana users perceived less risks associated with DUI-SAMA and increased willingness to DUI-SAMA in urgent and non-urgent conditions. Future research should focus on recruiting marijuana users to better understand factors that may influence behaviors associated with DUI-SAMA.
Frietze, Gabriel A, "The impact of stress on risk perceptions and risk behaviors" (2016). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10248524.