Schizophrenia illness severity is associated with reduced loss aversion

James Currie*, Dheeraj Buruju, Jennifer S. Perrin, Ian C. Reid, J. Douglas Steele, Nick Feltovich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Loss aversion, whereby losses weigh more heavily than equal-sized gains, has been demonstrated in many decision-making settings. Previous research has suggested reduced loss aversion in schizophrenia, but with little evidence of a link between loss aversion and schizophrenia illness severity. In this study, 20 individuals with schizophrenia and 16 control participants, matched by age and sex, played two versions of the Iterated Prisoners’ Dilemma, one version with only positive payoffs and another version in which negative payoffs were possible, with the second version being derived from the first by subtracting a constant value from all payoffs. The control group demonstrated significantly lower cooperation rates under negative payoffs, compared with the version with only positive payoffs, indicative of loss aversion. The patient group on average showed no loss aversion response. Moreover, the extent of loss aversion in patients was found to be negatively correlated with schizophrenia illness severity, with less ill patients showing loss aversion more similar to controls. Results were found to be robust to the inclusion of potential confounding factors as covariates within rigorous probit regression analyses. Reduced loss aversion is a feature of schizophrenia and related to illness severity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-16
Number of pages8
JournalBrain Research
Early online date11 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017

Bibliographical note

This study was supported by funding from the Millar-McKenzie Trust and the BMA Margaret Temple grant. JDS has received research funding via an honorarium associated with a lecture from Wyeth. The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.


  • Decision-making
  • Experimental economics
  • Game theory
  • Psychiatry


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