This dissertation comprises three studies that investigated the construct of hedging as a decision making strategy in individuals with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Hedging refers to the tendency to keep options available when there is a threat of loss of the options that is motivated by the underlying construct of loss aversion (i.e., Prospect Theory). Hedging introduces a behavioural economic approach to the study and understanding of the impact of loss aversion on decision making.
Participants played two conditions of the Doors Game (Shin & Ariely, 2004) in which they were instructed to maximize their earnings by tapping three doors in any order: i) constant availability (CA), where all doors remain available; and ii) decreasing availability (DA), where doors fade and disappear if left untapped after a short time (to elicit hedging). In Study One, undergraduates (N = 108) played both the CA and DA conditions and evidence indicates more frequent switching in the DA than the CA condition. There was also a significant negative association between hedging and the cognitive concern subscale of anxiety sensitivity. Study Two examined other psychological correlates of hedging in another undergraduate sample (N = 63) and yielded significant negative associations with the physical component of state anxiety and experience seeking. In Study Three, the results of a comparison of hedging among OCD, Gambling Disorder (GD), and Healthy Control (HC) groups yielded no significant differences. Correlates of hedging, however, differed among the groups and regression analyses suggest that hedging in OCD is negatively predicted by obsessiveness and decisiveness (subscale of the Need for Cognitive Closure; NFC), and positively predicted by experience seeking (subscale of the Sensation Seeking Scale). In the GD group, closed-mindedness (subscale of NFC) positively predicted hedging. In the HC group, fun-seeking (subscale of Behavioral Inhibition and
Behavioral Activation Scale) positively predicted hedging.
Implications: This work is the first to demonstrate predictors of hedging in OCD using a loss aversion paradigm where evidence suggests that obsessional and motivational drives lead to premature choice selection. Pursuing the loss aversion perspective could significantly advance the decision making research in OCD and in other clinical populations.