Sadness, apathy, preoccupation are all what comes to mind when we think about depression, but a new study has suggested that depression has a positive side-effect.
Bettina von Helversen (University of Basel, Switzerland), Andreas Wilke (Clarkson University), Tim Johnson (Stanford University), Gabriele Schmid (Technische Universitat Munchen, Germany), and Burghard Klapp (Charit Hospital Berlin, Germany) found that depressed individuals perform better than their non-depressed peers in sequential decision tasks.
In their study, participants – who were healthy, clinically depressed, or recovering from depression — played a computer game in which they could earn money by hiring an applicant in a simulated job search.
In addition to resembling everyday decision problems, such as house shopping and dating, the task has a known optimal strategy.
The result showed that depressed patients approximated this optimal strategy more closely than non-depressed participants did.
While healthy participants searched through relatively few candidates before selecting an applicant, depressed participants searched more thoroughly and made choices that resulted in higher payoffs.
The study is detailed in the forthcoming Journal of Abnormal Psychology.