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Faculty & Research


The Effect of Acute Stress on Humanitarian Supplies Management

Journal Article
Humanitarian workers often operate under highly stressful conditions, view emotional scenes, and face high time pressures. This may bias managerial decision making in humanitarian logistics, but evidence is lacking. The authors model humanitarian logistics decisions in an adapted newsvendor setting. They experimentally expose participants to time pressure, noise, and emotional pictures. Using physiological and self-reported data, the authors confirm that these manipulations have different effects on two components of the stress response (negative valence and arousal), and on decision-making quality. Specifically, medium levels of arousal seem to boost decision-making quality, independent of affective valence. However, high time pressure (characterized by high levels of arousal) leads to a collapse in decision-making quality. The authors' results highlight that some level of stress may be beneficial for decision making owing to its action-activating properties. However, excessive time pressure sharply overrides and outweighs these benefits. The authors discuss the generalizability of their results to other emergency situations (e.g., firefighters) and managerial contexts (e.g., crisis responses).

Emeritus Professor of Technology and Operations Management