Influence of depression symptoms on history-independent reward and punishment processing Academic Article uri icon


  • Prior research indicates that depressed individuals are less responsive to rewards and more sensitive to punishments than non-depressed individuals. This study examines decision-making under reward maximizing or punishment minimizing conditions among adults with low (n=47) or high (n=48) depression symptoms. We utilized a history-independent decision-making task where learning is experience-based and the participants' goal is to enhance immediate payoff. Results indicated a significant interaction between incentive condition (reward maximizing, punishment minimizing) and depression group. Within the low depression group, better performance was observed for reward maximization than punishment minimization. In contrast, within the high depression group, better performance was observed for punishment minimization than reward maximization. Further, the high depression group outperformed the low depression symptom group in the punishment minimization condition, but no depression group differences were observed in the reward maximization condition. Computational modeling indicated that the high depression group was more likely to choose options with the highest expected reward, particularly in the punishment condition. Thus, decision-making is improved for people with elevated depression symptoms when minimizing punishment relative to maximizing rewards.

author list (cited authors)

  • Beevers, C. G., Worthy, D. A., Gorlick, M. A., Nix, B., Chotibut, T., & Maddox, W. T.

citation count

  • 21

publication date

  • October 2012