In addition to its emotional effects, depression can muddle the mind, impairing both concentration and recall. That’s the bad news. The good news is, this mental disorder may also sharpen the mind’s ability to handle certain decision-making tasks, according to a study by U.S., German and Swiss researchers soon to be published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.
For the study, scientists tasked participants—some clinically depressed, others healthy or recovering from depression—with choosing the best applicant for a job opening. Researchers presented the applicants, each with an assigned monetary value to measure his or her worth, to participants one at a time in random order.
Scientists found that while healthy participants generally ended the applicant search quickly, depressed participants played the game longer, giving themselves more time to choose better applicants. (This persistent approach is a component of what’s called optimal strategy—using all available information to make the best decisions in handling important real-life tasks, such as dating or buying a house or car.)
Naturally, this isn’t an argument in favor of avoiding treatment for depression. For most people, the chance of depression possibly improving decision-making skills can’t compensate for the harm the disorder might have on their quality of life.
Researchers hope that a better understanding of depression’s effects-good as well as bad-will provide new treatment possibilities.
Click here to learn more about depressive disorder symptoms.