Temporal and Contextual Decision Making: Extending Experimental Choice Research to Clinical Psychology
AuthorWaltz, Thomas J
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The present study investigated the relationship between six discounting assessment tasks using clinically relevant content and measures of social aspects of psychological functioning. The first contextual discounting task assessed discounting involving variables related to the costs and benefits of entering therapy (i.e., increases in social functioning accompanied while experiencing distress) as contrasted with having nothing in life change. The second contextual discounting task assessed discounting involving variables related to the costs and benefits of avoiding distress (i.e., decreases in social functioning while experiencing relief from distress) as contrasted with having nothing in life change. The four clinically relevant variables embedded within the contextual discounting tasks were also assessed using an intertemporal discounting tasks. Study participants also completed measures of social anxiety, general distress, and quality of life. The study used a convenience sample undergraduate students and was administered over the internet. Results focused on characterizing the discounting patterns obtained with these novel assessment tasks and the relationship between discounting and measures of psychological functioning. The novel variables used in the discounting tasks resulted in discounting performances that were consistent with quantitative measures of hyperbolic discounting. Participants scoring high on social anxiety, high on general distress, and low on quality of life reported greater distress tolerance on contextual discounting tasks than comparisons while the opposite mean difference trend was observed for the temporal discounting tasks. The discussion focuses on the relevance of the results to future translational research in clinical psychology.