Reward and punishment learning in daily life: A replication study

Vera E Heininga*, G.H. van Roekel, Marieke Wichers, Albertine J Oldehinkel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
92 Downloads (Pure)


Day-to-day experiences are accompanied by feelings of Positive Affect (PA) and Negative Affect (NA). Implicitly, without conscious processing, individuals learn about the reward and punishment value of each context and activity. These associative learning processes, in turn, affect the probability that individuals will re-engage in such activities or seek out that context. So far, implicit learning processes are almost exclusively investigated in controlled laboratory settings and not in daily life. Here we aimed to replicate the first study that investigated implicit learning processes in real life, by means of the Experience Sampling Method (ESM). That is, using an experience-sampling study with 90 time points (three measurements over 30 days), we prospectively measured time spent in social company and amount of physical activity as well as PA and NA in the daily lives of 18-24-year-old young adults (n = 69 with anhedonia, n = 69 without anhedonia). Multilevel analyses showed a punishment learning effect with regard to time spent in company of friends, but not a reward learning effect. Neither reward nor punishment learning effects were found with regard to physical activity. Our study shows promising results for future research on implicit learning processes in daily life, with the proviso of careful consideration of the timescale used. Short-term retrospective ESM design with beeps approximately six hours apart may suffer from mismatch noise that hampers accurate detection of associative learning effects over time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0180753
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Punishment
  • Reward
  • Social Behavior
  • Young Adult
  • Journal Article
  • Randomized Controlled Trial


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