Reward Processing, Neuroeconomics, and Psychopathology

David H. Zald, Michael T. Treadway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Abnormal reward processing is a prominent transdiagnostic feature of psychopathology. The present review provides a framework for considering the different aspects of reward processing and their assessment, and highlights recent insights from the field of neuroeconomics that may aid in understanding these processes. Although altered reward processing in psychopathology has often been treated as a general hypo- or hyperresponsivity to reward, increasing data indicate that a comprehensive understanding of reward dysfunction requires characterization within more specific reward-processing domains, including subjective valuation, discounting, hedonics, reward anticipation and facilitation, and reinforcement learning. As such, more nuanced models of the nature of these abnormalities are needed. We describe several processing abnormalities capable of producing the types of selective alterations in reward-related behavior observed in different forms of psychopathology, including (mal)adaptive scaling and anchoring, dysfunctional weighting of reward and cost variables, competition between valuation systems, and reward prediction error signaling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)471-495
Number of pages25
JournalAnnual Review of Clinical Psychology
StatePublished - May 8 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • Addiction
  • Anhedonia
  • Computational psychiatry
  • Dopamine
  • Major depression
  • Prediction error


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