Perceived control in contingency learning is linked to psychological wellbeing with low levels of perceived control thought to be a cause or consequence of depression and high levels of control considered to be the hallmark of mental healthiness. However, it is not clear whether this is a universal phenomenon or whether the value that people ascribe to control influences these relationships. Here we hypothesize that values affect learning about control contingencies and influence the relationship between perceived control and symptoms of mood disorders. We tested these hypotheses with European university samples who were categorized as endorsing (or not) values relevant to control—individualist and collectivist values. Three online experimental contingency learning studies (N1 = 127, N2 = 324, N3 = 272) were carried out. Evidence suggested that individualist values influenced basic learning processes via an effect on learning about the context in which events took place. Participants who endorsed individualist values made control judgments that were more in line with an elemental associative learning model, whilst those who were ambivalent about individualist values made judgments that were more consistent with a configural process. High levels of perceived control and individualist values were directly associated with increased euphoric symptoms of bipolar disorder, and such values completely mediated the relation between perceived control and symptoms. The effect of low perceived control on depression was moderated by collectivist values. Anxiety created by dissonance between values and taskmay be a catalyst for developingmood symptoms. Conclusions are that values play a significant intermediary role in the relation between perceived control and symptoms of mood disturbance.
- perceived control, contingency judgment, depression, depressive realism, bipolar disorder, illusion of control, outcome density, values, individualism, collectivism