Aberrant reward processing to positive versus negative outcomes across psychotic disorders

Thanh P. Le, Michael F. Green, Junghee Lee, Peter E. Clayson, Amy M. Jimenez, Eric A. Reavis, Jonathan K. Wynn, William P. Horan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Several studies of reward processing in schizophrenia have shown reduced sensitivity to positive, but not negative, outcomes although inconsistencies have been reported. In addition, few studies have investigated whether patients show a relative deficit to social versus nonsocial rewards, whether deficits occur across the spectrum of psychosis, or whether deficits relate to negative symptoms and functioning. This study examined probabilistic implicit learning via two visually distinctive slot machines for social and nonsocial rewards in 101 outpatients with diverse psychotic disorders and 48 community controls. The task consisted of two trial types: positive (optimal to choose a positive vs. neutral machine) and negative (optimal to choose a neutral vs. negative machine), with two reward conditions: social (faces) and nonsocial (money) reward conditions. A significant group X trial type interaction indicated that controls performed better on positive than negative trials, whereas patients showed the opposite pattern of better performance on negative than positive trials. In addition, both groups performed better for social than nonsocial stimuli, despite lower overall task performance in patients. Within patients, worse performance on negative trials showed significant, small-to-moderate correlations with motivation and pleasure-related negative symptoms and social functioning. The current findings suggest reward processing disturbances, particularly decreased sensitivity to positive outcomes, extend beyond schizophrenia to a broader spectrum of psychotic disorders and relate to important clinical outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
StatePublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes

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© 2022 Elsevier Ltd


  • Reinforcement learning
  • Reward learning
  • Reward sensitivity
  • Schizophrenia
  • Social rewards


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