Parsing positivity in the bipolar spectrum: The effect of context on social decision-making

Timothy R Campellone, Andrew D Peckham, Sheri L Johnson
Journal of Affective Disorders 2018 August 1, 235: 316-322

INTRODUCTION: People with bipolar disorder often show more approach-related behavior and positive appraisals of others during social interactions. This may be due to an increased sensitivity to positive contexts or to tendencies toward positive affectivity. In this study, we investigated the influence of reward versus prosocial positive contexts on social decision-making in people at high (n = 21) and low (n = 111) risk for bipolar disorder.

METHODS: Participants completed a computerized task consisting of two blocks. In the No Context block, participants were presented with a face and asked to make decisions related to approach, appraisal, and trust behavior toward that person. In the Context block, designed to assess the influence of contextual information on decision-making, each face was preceded by a written statement describing a positive or neutral context.

RESULTS: Compared to the low risk group, the high-risk group made significantly higher approach and appraisal ratings, regardless of the context condition. Effects were sustained controlling for positive affect. We did not find any effect of bipolar risk on trust ratings.

LIMITATIONS: The study was conducted in an analogue sample.

DISCUSSION: Taken together, these results suggest risk for bipolar disorder is associated with greater positive social approach and appraisal tendencies, and that these effects are not secondary to social context or positive affect. Implications for understanding social decision-making in the bipolar spectrum are discussed.


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