Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Depressed people have trouble learning 'good things in life'

20.03.2009
While depression is often linked to negative thoughts and emotions, a new study suggests the real problem may be a failure to appreciate positive experiences.

Researchers at Ohio State University found that depressed and non-depressed people were about equal in their ability to learn negative information that was presented to them.

But depressed people weren’t nearly as successful at learning positive information as were their non-depressed counterparts.

“Since depression is characterized by negative thinking, it is easy to assume that depressed people learn the negative lessons of life better than non-depressed people – but that’s not true,” said Laren Conklin, co-author of the study and a graduate student in psychology at Ohio State.

The study appears in the March issue of the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry.

Researchers tested 34 college students, 17 of whom met criteria for clinical depression and 17 of whom were not depressed.

This study is one of the first to be able to link clinical levels of depression to how people form attitudes when they encounter new events or information, said Daniel Strunk, co-author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State.

Strunk said the key to conducting this study was the use of a computer game paradigm co-developed at Ohio State in 2004 by Russell Fazio, a professor of psychology and co-author of this new study. Fazio and his collaborators, Natalie Shook, a PhD graduate of Ohio State now at Virginia Commonwealth University and J. Richard Eiser of the University of Sheffield (England) have used the game in many studies examining differences in the development of positive and negative attitudes.

The developers affectionately call the game “BeanFest.” It involves people encountering images of beans on the computer screen. The beans could be good or bad, depending on their shape and the number of speckles they had.

Good beans earned the players points, while bad beans took points away. The goal was to earn as many points as possible.

While the game may seem trivial to a naive audience, Strunk said it offers a unique and powerful way to measure how people learn new attitudes.

“Before, if researchers wanted to investigate how people formed new attitudes, it was very difficult to do,” Strunk said. If researchers asked about real-life issues, the problem is that prior learning and attitudes may impact how people respond to new information. But in this game, participants don’t have any prior knowledge or attitudes about the beans so researchers could learn how they formed their attitudes in a novel situation, without interference from past experiences.

In the game phase of this study, participants had to choose whether they would accept a bean when it appeared on the screen. If they accepted the bean, the points were added or deducted from their total. If they rejected the bean, they were still told how many points they would have earned or lost if they had accepted it.

Each of the 34 beans was shown three times during the game phase, giving the participants a good opportunity to learn which beans were good and which were bad.

Then, in the test phase, participants had to indicate whether beans they learned about in the game phase were “good” (choosing it would increase points) or “bad” (choosing it would decrease points). The researchers tallied how well participants did in correctly identifying positive and negative beans.

The non-depressed students correctly identified 61 percent of the negative beans, which was about the same as the depressed students, who correctly identified 66 percent of the “bad” beans.

But while the non-depressed students correctly identified 60 percent of the positive beans, depressed students correctly classified only 49 percent of these good beans. Non-depressed students identified the good beans better than the depressed students, who failed to identify good beans better than chance.

“The depressed people showed a bias against learning positive information although they had no trouble learning the negative,” Strunk said.

One of measures researchers used in the study classified whether the depressed participants were currently undergoing a mild, moderate or severe episode of depression. In the study, those undergoing a severe depressive episode did more poorly on correctly choosing positive beans than those with mild depression, further strengthening the results.

While more research is needed, Conklin and Strunk said this study suggests possible ways to improve treatment of depressed people.

“Depressed people may have a tendency to remember the negative experiences in a situation, but not remember the good things that happened,” Conklin said. “Therapists need to be aware of that.”

For example, a depressed person who is trying out a new exercise program may mention how it makes him feel sore and tired – but not consider the weight he has lost as a result of the exercise.

“Therapists might focus more on helping their depressed clients recognize and remember the positive aspects of their new experiences,” Strunk said.

Laren Conklin | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.osu.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change
17.11.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Water world

20.11.2017 | Life Sciences

Less is more to produce top-notch 2D materials

20.11.2017 | Materials Sciences

Carefully crafted light pulses control neuron activity

20.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>