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Patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD) show negative and unstable self- and other-evaluations compared to healthy individuals. It is unclear, however, how they process self- and other-relevant social feedback. We have previously demonstrated a positive updating bias in healthy individuals: When receiving social feedback on character traits, healthy individuals integrate desirable more than undesirable feedback. Here, our aim was to test whether BPD patients exhibit a more negative pattern of social feedback processing.
We employed a character trait task in which BPD patients interacted with four healthy participants in a real-life social interaction. Afterwards, all participants rated themselves and one other participant on 80 character traits before and after receiving feedback from their interaction partners. We compared how participants updated their ratings after receiving desirable and undesirable feedback. Our analyses included 22 BPD patients and 81 healthy controls.
Healthy controls showed a positivity bias for self- and other-relevant feedback as previously demonstrated. Importantly, this pattern was altered in BPD patients: They integrated undesirable feedback for themselves to a greater degree than healthy controls did. Other-relevant feedback processing was unaltered in BPD patients.
Our study demonstrates an alteration in self-relevant feedback processing in BPD patients that might contribute to unstable and negative self-evaluations.
When challenged with information about the future, healthy participants show an optimistically biased updating pattern, taking desirable information more into account than undesirable information. However, it is unknown how patients suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD), who express pervasive pessimistic beliefs, update their beliefs when receiving information about their future. Here we tested whether an optimistically biased information processing pattern found in healthy individuals is absent in MDD patients.
MDD patients (n = 18; 13 medicated; eight with co-morbid anxiety disorder) and healthy controls (n = 19) estimated their personal probability of experiencing 70 adverse life events. After each estimate participants were presented with the average probability of the event occurring to a person living in the same sociocultural environment. This information could be desirable (i.e. average probability better than expected) or undesirable (i.e. average probability worse than expected). To assess how desirable versus undesirable information influenced beliefs, participants estimated their personal probability of experiencing the 70 events a second time.
Healthy controls showed an optimistic bias in updating, that is they changed their beliefs more toward desirable versus undesirable information. Overall, this optimistic bias was absent in MDD patients. Symptom severity correlated with biased updating: more severely depressed individuals showed a more pessimistic updating pattern. Furthermore, MDD patients estimated the probability of experiencing adverse life events as higher than healthy controls.
Our findings raise the intriguing possibility that optimistically biased updating of expectations about one's personal future is associated with mental health.
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