Social avoidance in depression: A study using a social decision-making task.

Depression significantly affects interpersonal functioning. Social avoidance may play an important role in depression, limiting opportunities and social skills acquisition, contributing to the maintenance of social difficulties. In the last few years, the need for studying social interactions using interactive tasks has been highlighted. This study investigated social avoidance in unmedicated depressed (n = 26) and matched healthy control (n = 26) participants, using a novel computerized social decision-making task (the TEAM task). In this task, participants choose between a social option (playing in a team with a coplayer) and an individual option (playing alone). Although the social option is more profitable from a material point of view, it can also be challenging because of social comparison and guilt feelings for failing the team. It was found that the higher the rank of the coplayer, the stronger the negative emotions (shame, guilt) reported by participants and the more they opted for the individual option. Depressed participants reported significantly less positive (happiness) and more negative (shame, guilt, disappointment) feelings regarding the task. Importantly, depressed participants chose the individual option significantly more often than controls, which led to lower gains in this group. Furthermore, as the task progressed, controls selected the individual option less often, whereas depressed participants selected the individual option more often. Our findings illustrate the importance of social avoidance in depression and how this behavior can lead to negative consequences. They also highlight the role of social comparison and guilt-related processes in underlying social avoidance in depression. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)