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Social context and risk-taking behavior in anxious youths

Thursday, October 11, 2012 — Poster Session IV

2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Natcher Conference Center, Building 45




  • N. Pavletic
  • N. Patel
  • T. Daniele
  • J. Jarcho
  • D. Pine
  • M. Ernst


Adolescents are more likely to take risks in the context of peer evaluation than when alone. In addition, hypersensitivity to social evaluation often characterizes anxiety disorders, suggesting that risk-taking in anxious youths might be uniquely modulated by social context. Using the “Social Stunt task,” 20 healthy (M=13.25 yo, SD=2.58) and 33 anxious (M=11.75 yo, SD=2.51) subjects were compared on risky decision-making during a social (watched by peers) and nonsocial (alone) condition. Overall, participants were more likely to take risks during the nonsocial than social condition. Anxious youths made decisions less rapidly than healthy controls in the social condition. During trials with the highest levels of uncertainty, anxious youths took more risks in the nonsocial than social condition. By contrast, healthy controls took more risks in the social than nonsocial condition. Taken together, these results suggest that social context differentially influences reward-motivated risk-taking behavior in anxious and healthy youths.

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