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We often forego a larger future reward in order to obtain a smaller reward immediately, known as impatient intertemporal choice. The current study investigated the role of Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer (PIT) as a mechanism contributing to impatient intertemporal choice, following a theoretical framework proposing that cues associated with immediate gratification trigger a Pavlovian approach response, interfering with goal-directed (instrumental) inhibitory behavior. We developed a paradigm in which participants first learned to make instrumental go/no-go responses in order to win rewards and avoid punishments. Next, they learned the associations between Pavlovian cues and rewards varying in amount and delay. Finally, we tested whether these (task-irrelevant) cues exerted transfer effects by influencing instrumental actions while participants again completed the go/no-go task. Across two experiments, Pavlovian cues associated with larger (versus smaller) and immediate (versus delayed) rewards were evaluated more positively, reflecting the successful acquisition of Pavlovian cue–outcome associations. These findings replicated the previously reported classical transfer effect of reward amount on instrumental behavior, as large (versus smaller) cues increased instrumental approach. In contrast, we found no evidence for the hypothesized transfer effects for reward delay, contrary to the proposed role of PIT in impatient intertemporal choice. These results suggest that although both reward amount and delay were important in the evaluation of cues, only the amount associated with cues influenced instrumental choice. We provide concrete suggestions for future studies, addressing instrumental outcome identity, competition between cue–amount and cue–delay associations, and individual differences in response to Pavlovian cues.
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic might affect mental health. Data from population-representative panel surveys with multiple waves including pre-COVID data investigating risk and protective factors are still rare.
In a stratified random sample of the German household population (n = 6684), we conducted survey-weighted multiple linear regressions to determine the association of various psychological risk and protective factors assessed between 2015 and 2020 with changes in psychological distress [(PD; measured via Patient Health Questionnaire for Depression and Anxiety (PHQ-4)] from pre-pandemic (average of 2016 and 2019) to peri-pandemic (both 2020 and 2021) time points. Control analyses on PD change between two pre-pandemic time points (2016 and 2019) were conducted. Regularized regressions were computed to inform on which factors were statistically most influential in the multicollinear setting.
PHQ-4 scores in 2020 (M = 2.45) and 2021 (M = 2.21) were elevated compared to 2019 (M = 1.79). Several risk factors (catastrophizing, neuroticism, and asking for instrumental support) and protective factors (perceived stress recovery, positive reappraisal, and optimism) were identified for the peri-pandemic outcomes. Control analyses revealed that in pre-pandemic times, neuroticism and optimism were predominantly related to PD changes. Regularized regression mostly confirmed the results and highlighted perceived stress recovery as most consistent influential protective factor across peri-pandemic outcomes.
We identified several psychological risk and protective factors related to PD outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic. A comparison of pre-pandemic data stresses the relevance of longitudinal assessments to potentially reconcile contradictory findings. Implications and suggestions for targeted prevention and intervention programs during highly stressful times such as pandemics are discussed.
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