Year: 2017 Source: PLoS One. (2017). 12(3): e0173439. SIEC No: 20170217

Anhedonia, or the loss of interest and/or pleasure, is a core symptom of depression. Individuals experiencing anhedonia have difficulty motivating themselves to pursue rewarding stimuli, which can result in dysfunction. Action orientation is a motivational factor that might interact with anhedonia to potentially buffer against this dysfunction, as action-oriented individuals upregulate positive affect to quickly motivate themselves to complete goals in the face of stress. The Effort-Expenditure for Rewards Task (EEfRT) is a promising new method for examining differences in motivation in individuals experiencing anhedonia. In the EEfRT, participants choose either easier tasks associated with smaller monetary rewards or harder tasks associated with larger monetary rewards. We examined the relationship between action orientation and EEfRT performance following a negative mood induction in a sample with varying levels of anhedonia. There were two competing hypotheses: (1) action orientation would act as a buffer against anhedonia such that action-oriented individuals, regardless of anhedonic symptoms, would be motivated to pursue greater rewards despite stress, or (2) anhedonia would act as a debilitating factor such that individuals with elevated anhedonic symptoms, regardless of action orientation, would not pursue greater rewards. We examined these hypotheses via Generalized Estimating Equations and found an interaction between anhedonia and action orientation. At low levels of anhedonia, action orientation was associated with effort for reward, but this relationship was not present at high levels of anhedonia. Thus, at low levels of anhedonia, action orientation acted as a buffer against stress, but at high levels, anhedonia debilitated action orientation so that it was no longer a promotive factor.

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