We use our memory to look back at our past.
But we also use our memories of what has happened in the past, to plan our futures.
When we are stressed, we cannot retrieve memories as quickly or as accurately. And that impairs our ability to plan for the future.
Stressing out over a problem can make finding a solution even harder.
Researchers Stanford University conducted experiments where they monitored participants’ behavior and brain activity — via fMRI — as they navigated through virtual towns. After participants became very familiar with the winding routes in a dozen virtual towns, they were dropped onto one of the memorized paths and told to find their way to a particular point.
Some of the participants were told they would receive a mild electric shock at random. These participants – who were worried about a random electric shock – performed less well that the others who were not threatened with electric shocks.
Participants who didn’t have to worry about being randomly shocked tended to find shortcuts based on memories acquired from prior journeys. Whereas the stressed participants tended to fall back on the meandering, habitual routes.
It’s possible that people who are suffering with financial stress, fail to make effective plans to help deal with financial problem. And that may make their financial situation even worse.