Assessing cognitive effort discounting and its role in self-control

Research project


PROJECT SUMMARYMany substance use disorders (SUDs), are characterized by a heightened preference for immediate overlarger, delayed rewards (?delay discounting?). Research has successfully related this type of decision-makingbias with etiological factors, and with the progression and possibly cessation of SUDs, and has begun toidentify its neural and genetic correlates. Despite this success, there has been relatively little research onbiases in individual decision-making using reward costs other than delay. One potentially important cost iscognitive effort (CE), which can be defined as the amount to which executive functions must be engaged toearn rewards. Thus, the overall aim of this application is to develop a methodology that can be used to assesscognitive effort (CE) discounting in the lab, a necessary first step towards assessing whether training toenhance willingness to exert CE could assist individuals to adhere to cessation treatment protocols, despite thediscomfort associated with behavior change and overcoming withdrawal.Specifically, this project will assess the construct validity of an attentional CE discounting task in cigarettesmokers by correlating performance with a second CE discounting task in which CE is memory load. Constructvalidity will also be assessed by correlating behavior on the CE discounting tasks with responses on self-reportquestionnaires assessing constructs associated with willingness to work, apathy and procrastination. Predictivevalidity will be assessed by correlating task performance with behavior in a reinforced abstinence protocol. Wehypothesize that individuals who are more affected by the CE requirements will abstain for a shorter period.This relationship will be enhanced for individuals for whom self-control has been reduced using an ego-depletion technique. Finally reliability will be assessed by comparing measures made at the beginning of thesession with ones made at the end of the 3-h session, and ones made 7 days later.Having reliable and validated tools is a prerequisite for evaluating putative behavioral and pharmacologicalmanipulations to increase willingness to engage in effortful behavior change. Evaluating the efficacy of suchmanipulations is important to facilitate treatment for substance use disorder and other psychopathologies,because the lack of willingness to perform cognitive effort has, at least anecdotally, been linked to a resistanceto initiate treatment and failure to remain in treatment protocols.
Effective start/end date7/1/166/30/18


  • National Institutes of Health: $76,339.00


Costs and Cost Analysis
Substance-Related Disorders
Clinical Protocols
Withholding Treatment
Executive Function
Task Performance and Analysis
Treatment Failure
Decision Making