The Effects of Acute Stress on Risk and Time Preferences. Can Mindfulness Meditation Help?

Natalia Bulla¹ and Irene Mussio² (with Nadja Kairies-Schwarz³)

1 University of Duisburg-Essen/CINCH, DDZ/IVG

2 Newcastle University School of Business

3 University of Duisburg-Essen/CINCH

Stress influences decision-making processes and is one of the drivers of changes in economic preferences. Many techniques have been suggested to tackle stress, ranging from exercising to medical counselling. One of the novel techniques is mindfulness meditation, which aims to put the focus of the individual on the present moment and should be able to help manage stress. With this in mind, we investigate whether stress impacts individual risk and time preferences, and whether a brief mindfulness breathing exercise affects preferences as well. We conduct a controlled laboratory experiment with a student subject pool. We aim to reduce the level of individual stress with a mindfulness meditation task, while increasing stress via a cognitive load task. As a measure of stress, we track participants' heart rates in a continuous manner during the experimental session. Our preliminary results show that a brief mindfulness task reduces the average heart rate for participants who were exposed to stress by 3.8% and those who were not by 3.4%. So far, we do not find effects of the brief mindfulness breathing exercise on risk and time preferences.