Anxiety modulates preference for immediate rewards among trait-impulsive individuals: A decision theory and hierarchical Bayesian analysis
Trait impulsivity—defined by strong preference for immediate over delayed rewards and difficulties inhibiting prepotent behaviors—is observed in all externalizing disorders, including substance use disorders. Many laboratory tasks have been developed to identify cognitive mechanisms and correlates of impulsive behavior, but convergence between task measures and self-reports of impulsivity are consistently low. Longstanding theories of personality and decision-making predict that neurally mediated individual differences in sensitivity to reward cues versus punishment cues (frustrative non-reward) interact to affect behavioral tendencies. Such interactions obscure 1:1 correspondences between single personality traits and task performance. Here, we develop models within the framework of decision theory that provide an explanation for how impulsive and anxious valuation may interact at the mechanistic level to produce observed interactions at the level of behavior. We then use hierarchical Bayesian analysis to fit these models to three samples with differing levels of substance use, trait impulsivity, and state anxiety (total N=967). Our findings: (1) reveal cognitive mechanisms through which anxiety can modulate impulsive valuation and subsequently attenuate impulsive behavior, and (2) demonstrate benefits of decision theory and hierarchical Bayesian analysis over traditional approaches for testing theories of psychopathology spanning levels of analysis.
Very nice work! I very much appreciate computational approaches to understanding psychiatric illness. I was wondering whether you have any ideas on how the delay discounting and reward revaluation could have been affected by the anxiety and impulsivity. Do you have thoughts on that? That could also be interesting with respect to making predictions ...