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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-26
Number of pages8
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018


  • Decision-making
  • Depression
  • Modelbased
  • Negative affect
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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