Date of Award

August 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Christine L. Larson

Committee Members

Deborah Hannula, Hanjoo Lee, Krista Lisdahl, Ira Driscoll, Christine L. Larson


Anhedonia, Attention, Major Depressive Disorder, Reward


Recently, several researchers have demonstrated that reward enhances visual selective attention; however, no one has evaluated how individual differences in reward sensitivity or psychopathology involving disturbances in hedonic capacity (e.g., Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)) affect this process. In this investigation, a novel incentivized visual search task was developed to unite the literatures on reward facilitation of attention with the studies of individual differences in hedonic capacity and remitted MDD (rMDD). 161 undergraduates responded to self-report measures and completed standard and incentivized visual search tasks. In the standard task, subjects had to indicate if a letter F (target) was present or absent in a group of E’s. The incentivized visual search task was the same as the standard task, but subjects could earn money if they responded both correctly and quickly, and they received performance feedback. Participants were randomly assigned to either receive feedback only if they earned the monetary reward (positive feedback group) or if they failed to earn the monetary reward (negative feedback group). A subsample of 126 participants completed the MINI International Neuropsychiatric Interview (55 never-depressed, 47 remitted MDD). Overall, monetary reward robustly enhanced visual search efficiency. In addition, greater SPSRQ Sensitivity to Reward was associated with enhanced incentivized search efficiency in the presence of positive, but not negative, feedback. On the contrary, the rMDD group exhibited less efficient search in the presence of positive, but not negative, feedback relative to the never-depressed group. Finally, there was a double dissociation between depressive affect and feedback. Increased MASQ General Distress – Depression (negative affective symptoms of depression) was associated with enhanced incentivized search in the presence of negative, but not positive, feedback whereas Anhedonic Depression was associated with decreased efficiency in the presence of positive, but not negative, feedback. Overall, these results provide a cohesive account of the relationship between motivation and attention as it relates to both basic cognitive and affective science and the study of psychopathology.