Date of Award

Fall 12-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Director

Matt R. Judah

Committee Member

Mark W. Scerbo

Committee Member

Kristin E. Heron


Theories and research suggest that depression involves impaired reward sensitivity and a deficit in memory for rewarding stimuli. Some researchers propose that this memory deficit may result from reduced neural reward sensitivity, which impairs the encoding of reward-related memories, but few studies have directly probed this connection. Such research may benefit from examining the reward positivity (RewP), an event-related potential (ERP) previously linked to reduced reward sensitivity in depression. Undergraduates with high or low self-reported depression completed a task in which they chose one of three doors, revealing a neutral word written in a color which indicated an outcome of winning money, losing money, or neither (i.e., draw). A surprise source memory task presented the words again and asked participants to indicate the outcome previously paired with each word. Results showed that ERP response to reward was greater than loss, which was greater than draw, but no differences between depressed and non-depressed participants were observed. Reward source memory was more accurate than loss and draw source memory for non-depressed participants, but this advantage was not seen in depressed participants. The RewP did not correlate with source memory in either group. Overall, the results suggest that depressed individuals may lack a normative memory prioritization of reward-related information. The findings did not support an association between depression and the RewP or between the RewP and reward source memory. Results suggest that future research should include neutral trials along with reward and loss trials to better characterize the RewP.


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