Background: Loss aversion in decision-making refers to a higher sensitivity to losses than to gains. Loss aversion is conceived as an affective interference in cognitive processes such as judgment and decision-making. Loss aversion in non-risky choices has not been studied in schizophrenia. Method: Forty-two individuals with schizophrenia and 42 non-patient control subjects, matched by gender and age, were randomized to two different scenarios (a buying scenario and a selling scenario). Subjects were asked to evaluate the price of a decorated mug. Schizophrenia subjects were re-tested four weeks later with the other scenario. Results: Contrary to non-patient controls, schizophrenia subjects did not show loss aversion. In the schizophrenia group, absence of loss aversion was correlated with age, duration of illness, number of months in State hospitals, and poorer performance in the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, but not with current psychopathology and two domains of emotional experience. Conclusions: Absence of loss aversion in schizophrenia represents a deficit in the processing of emotional information during decision-making. It can be interpreted as a lack of integration between the emotional and the cognitive systems, or to a more diffuse and de-differentiated impact of emotional information on decision-making. Future studies should bring more clarity to this question.
- Executive function
- Loss aversion