Sensitivity to Reward and Punishment in Borderline and Avoidant Personality Disorders


Student Authors:

Sarah M. Van De Weert ‘16, Gettysburg College

Stella Nicolaou ‘19, Gettysburg College

Cindy Campoverde ‘20, Gettysburg College

Document Type


Publication Date


Department 1



The authors compared self-reported and behavioral responses to reward and punishment in individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) or avoidant personality disorder (APD) relative to a healthy comparison (HC) group. As predicted, self-reported sensitivity to reward was significantly higher in the BPD group than in the APD and HC groups. Also as predicted, self-reported sensitivity to punishment was significantly elevated in both disordered groups but significantly higher in APD than in BPD. These hypothesized patterns were also evident in responses to behavioral tasks: Participants with BPD made more errors of commission and fewer errors of omission than HC participants on a passive avoidance learning task, and participants with APD showed greater reactivity to losses than other participants on a probabilistic reversal learning task. Results help characterize differences between these two disorders.



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