The impact of depression on social economic decision making

Katia M. Harlé, John J.B. Allen, Alan G. Sanfey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Although the role of emotion in social economic decision making has been increasingly recognized, the impact of mood disorders, such as depression, on such decisions has been surprisingly neglected. To address this gap, 15 depressed and 23 nondepressed individuals completed a well-known economic task, in which they had to accept or reject monetary offers from other players. Although depressed individuals reported a more negative emotional reaction to unfair offers, they accepted significantly more of these offers than did controls. A positive relationship was observed in the depressed group, but not in controls, between acceptance rates of unfair offers and resting cardiac vagal control, a physiological index of emotion regulation capacity. The discrepancy between depressed individuals' increased emotional reactions to unfair offers and their decisions to accept more of these offers contrasts with recent findings that negative mood in nondepressed individuals can lead to lower acceptance rates. This suggests distinct biasing processes in depression, which may be related to higher reliance on regulating negative emotion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)440-446
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Abnormal Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2010


  • Cardiac vagal control
  • Decision making
  • Depression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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