Uncertainty, More Stressful Than Pain?

According to a recent study by the University College of London (UCL), in the UK, is was established that…


“ Feeling uncertainty was much more stressful than feeling pain”.

45 students were recruited to participate in this research, and what they did was ask them to play a computer game. The game involved turning over stones to which some of them had snakes under them lurking around. Once you turned over the wrong stone, there they were. The idea was to guess whether or not there would be snakes. If you chose the wrong stone then you’d receive a small electric shock in the hand.

stressSnakesAs the students became more familiar with the game, fear began settling in, their levels of “uncertainty” began to fluctuate. They did this by measuring their pupils as they noticed their eyes began to dilate and soon after were perspiring all over.

The higher the level of uncertainty grew, the more stressful they became.

The more stressful moments were when they had a 50% chance of receiving a shock, while a 0% or 100% actually had the least amount of stress.

Concluding that people whose stress levels aligned closely with their uncertainty were better at guessing whether or not they would receive a shock, suggesting that stress may help us to judge how risky something is.

The same effect takes place in our physiological measure; people sweat more and their pupils get bigger when they feel uncertain.

In other words it is much worse not knowing you are going to get a shock than knowing you definitely will or won’t.
It’s the uncertainty that makes us anxious.

Strangely enough this is the first time there’s been research to measure the effects of uncertainty on stress.
AND now that we know, personally I think…


What do you think?


3 thoughts on “Uncertainty, More Stressful Than Pain?

  1. This was is very appropriate as I was speaking with my middle sister today, and she was revealing to me how much stress she was under not knowing how things are going to play out. That worrying about things was contributing to her higher stress levels. I am glad they are doing research on this because, it’s sad to say, that stress kills.

    Good post!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s