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Cognition. 2012 Oct;125(1):118-24. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2012.06.011. Epub 2012 Jul 15.

Depressive symptoms enhance loss-minimization, but attenuate gain-maximization in history-dependent decision-making.

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Department of Psychology, The University of Texas at Austin, TX 78712, United States.


Individuals with depressive symptoms typically show deficits in decision-making. However, most work has emphasized decision-making under gain-maximization conditions. A gain-maximization framework may undermine decision-making when depressive symptoms are present because depressives are generally more sensitive to losses than gains. The present study examined decision making in a non-clinical sample of depressive and non-depressive individuals under gain-maximization or loss-minimization conditions using a task for which the currently available rewards depend upon participants' previous history of choices. As predicted, we found a cross over interaction whereby depressive individuals were superior to non-depressive individuals under loss-minimization conditions, but were inferior to non-depressive individuals under gain-maximization conditions. In addition, we found that loss-minimization performance was superior to gain-maximization performance for depressive individuals, but that gain-maximization performance was superior to loss-minimization performance for non-depressive individuals. These results suggest that decision making deficits observed when depressive symptoms are present may be attenuated when decisions involve minimizing losses rather than maximizing gains.

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