The belief comes from the fact that it appears that uncertainty is actually at the route of anxiety and stress much more than accepting the inevitable, whether it be good, bad or indifferent.
We have all anticipated situations being a hundred times worse than they actually end up being – going to the dentist, a job interview, meeting your other half’s mum? We can all get our knickers in a twist about it but when it comes to the crunch, nine times out of ten you didn’t have a hole in your tooth, your potential new boss wasn’t Miss Trunchbull and your other half’s mum was nothing short of delighted to meet you (naturally, you’re awesome).
“The most stressful scenario is when you really don’t know,” Dr Robb Rutledge of UCL’s Institute of Neurology told The Telegraph. Which probably explains why when the train is delayed on your morning commute, angry commuters are far more likely to come out in force when there’s a lack of information than when a definitive answer is given. At the aforementioned job interview you will probably relax and perform a lot better if you think there isn’t a hope in hell of getting the position.
The study was based on an experiment which saw 45 students take chances on getting an electric shock through a computer game. The most stressed students were the ones with a 50% chance of getting a shock, while the least stressed were the ones who ascertained there was either no chance or 100% chance of getting a shock.
The study’s senior author Dr Sven Bestmann said that the link between environmental uncertainty and stress indicates that it may have had a survival benefit at some point in our history – allowing us to learn and be aware of dangerous uncertainties.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, for us most of our uncertainties today have less of an impact on our survival but my goodness a train delay is a nightmare isn’t it? Thank heavens for vital survival tools like Uber!
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