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Depression is related to an absence of optimistically biased belief updating about future life events

Korn, CW; Sharot, T; Walter, H; Heekeren, HR; Dolan, RJ; (2013) Depression is related to an absence of optimistically biased belief updating about future life events. Psychological Medicine 1 - 14. 10.1017/S0033291713001074. Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: When challenged with information about the future, healthy participants show an optimistically biased updating pattern, taking desirable information more into account than undesirable information. However, it is unknown how patients suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD), who express pervasive pessimistic beliefs, update their beliefs when receiving information about their future. Here we tested whether an optimistically biased information processing pattern found in healthy individuals is absent in MDD patients. Method MDD patients (n = 18; 13 medicated; eight with co-morbid anxiety disorder) and healthy controls (n = 19) estimated their personal probability of experiencing 70 adverse life events. After each estimate participants were presented with the average probability of the event occurring to a person living in the same sociocultural environment. This information could be desirable (i.e. average probability better than expected) or undesirable (i.e. average probability worse than expected). To assess how desirable versus undesirable information influenced beliefs, participants estimated their personal probability of experiencing the 70 events a second time. RESULTS: Healthy controls showed an optimistic bias in updating, that is they changed their beliefs more toward desirable versus undesirable information. Overall, this optimistic bias was absent in MDD patients. Symptom severity correlated with biased updating: more severely depressed individuals showed a more pessimistic updating pattern. Furthermore, MDD patients estimated the probability of experiencing adverse life events as higher than healthy controls. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings raise the intriguing possibility that optimistically biased updating of expectations about one's personal future is associated with mental health.

Type: Article
Title: Depression is related to an absence of optimistically biased belief updating about future life events
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1017/S0033291713001074
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0033291713001074
Language: English
Additional information: This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium. However, you must attribute the work to the author (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1394432
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