Droid here are a couple of relevant studies:
Experiments with rodents done by Kent Berridge found that:
- Stressed rats will expend more energy on obtaining pleasurable relief (in the form of food) than non-stressed rats. But only to familiar foods
Peciña, S., Schulkin, J., & Berridge, K.C. (2006). Nucleus accumbens corticotropin-releasing factor increases cue-triggered motivation for sucrose reward: Paradoxical positive incentive effects in stress
- Experiments with stressed exam students done by Wendy Wood et al found that stress amplified the hedonic habitual approaches already used by students (so basically it made them seek out more of the HABIT though not the reward, to relieve stress and regain comfort.
Neal, D.T., Wood, W., & Drolet, A. (2013). How do people adhere to goals when willpower is low? The profits (and pitfalls) of strong habits. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
In short it seems that our default response to stress (and subsequent comfort seeking) is to seek out a FAMILIAR rewarding habit (E.g. having a coffee at Starbucks, if that’s a habit) than a non-habitual reward. (So comfort seeking is Pavlovian not strictly hedonic)