Both depressive and anxiety disorders have been associated with excessive risk avoidant behaviors, which are considered an important contributor to the maintenance and recurrence of these disorders. However, given the high comorbidity between the two disorders, their independent association with risk preference remains unclear. Furthermore, due to the involvement of multiple cognitive computational factors in the decision-making tasks employed so far, the precise underlying mechanisms of risk preference are unknown. In the present study, we set out to investigate the common versus unique cognitive computational mechanisms of risk preference in depression and anxiety using a reward-based decision-making task and computational modeling based on economic theories. Specifically, in model-based analysis, we decomposed risk preference into utility sensitivity (a power function) and probability weighting (the one-parameter Prelec weighting function). Multiple linear regression incorporating depression (BDI-II) and anxiety (STAI state anxiety) simultaneously indicated that only depression was associated with one such risk preference parameter, probability weighting. As the symptoms of depression increased, subjects’ tendency to overweight small probabilities and underweight large probabilities decreased. Neither depression nor anxiety was associated with utility sensitivity. These associations remained even after controlling covariates or excluding anxiety-relevant items from the depression scale. To our knowledge, this is the first study to assess risk preference due to a concave utility function and nonlinear probability weighting separately for depression and anxiety using computational modeling. Our results provide a mechanistic account of risk avoidance and may improve our understanding of decision-making deficits in depression and anxiety.
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