Appetitive motivation in depressive anhedonia: Effects of piece-rate cash rewards on cardiac and behavioral outcomes

Paul J. Silvia, Kari M. Eddington, Kelly L. Harper, Christopher J. Burgin, Thomas R. Kwapil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Deficits in self-regulation and motivation are central to depression. Using motivational intensity theory (Brehm & Self, 1989), the present research examined how depressive anhedonia influences effort during a piece-rate appetitive task. In piece-rate tasks, people can work at their own pace and are rewarded for each correct response, so they can gain rewards more quickly by expending more effort. A sample of community adults (n = 78) was evaluated for depressive anhedonia using a structured clinical interview, yielding depressive anhedonia and control groups. Participants completed a self-paced cognitive task, and each correct response yielded a cash reward (3 cents or 15 cents, manipulated within-person). Using impedance cardiography, effort-related physiological activity was assessed via the cardiac pre-ejection period (PEP). The results indicated lower reward responsiveness in the anhedonia group. Compared to the control group, the depressive anhedonia group showed significantly less baseline-to-task change in PEP, and they performed marginally worse on the task. The experiment supports the predictions made by applying motivational intensity theory to depression and offers a useful paradigm for evaluating anhedonic effects on effort while people are striving for appealing rewards.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-265
Number of pages7
JournalMotivation Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Anhedonia
  • Depression
  • Effort
  • Motivation
  • Reward

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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