Inflexible decision-making has been proposed as a transdiagnostic risk factor for mood disorders. Evidence suggests that inflexible decision-making may emerge only when individuals are experiencing increased negative affect or stress. 151 participants completed symptom measures of depression and anxiety, followed by a two-stage decision-making task that distinguishes between habitual and goal-directed choice. An experimental manipulation to induce stress was introduced halfway through the task. Individuals with higher depression levels became less model-based after the manipulation than those with lower depression levels. There was no relationship between trait anxiety and the impact of the manipulation on decision-making. Controlling for main effects of anxiety did not attenuate the association between depression and impact of stress. Anhedonia was associated with the impact of the manipulation on model-based decision-making. These results suggest that risk for depression is associated with reflexive decision-making, but these effects may only emerge under conditions of stress.
Model-based learning and individual differences in depression: The moderating role of stress
Aaron S. Heller
C.E. Chiemeka Ezie
A. Ross Otto
Kiara R. Timpano