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Pick a Card, Any Card: The Relationship Between Anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive Symptoms and Decision-Making

  • Angelina Leonello (a1) and Mairwen K. Jones (a2)

Specific deficits in decision-making have been demonstrated in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The experience of anxious arousal in obsessive-compulsive (OC) patients has been posited to be responsible for disrupting the cognitive processes that lead to efficacious decision-making (Sachdev & Malhi, 2005). In spite of this, research has neglected to examine explicitly the effect of anxiety on the relationship between decision-making and OCD. The current study investigates whether decision-making differences on the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) occur as a function of OC symptomatology in a non-clinical sample (n = 110). Participants were randomly allocated to either an anxiety condition (n = 58) or control condition (n = 52). Anxious arousal was induced in the anxiety condition via an experimental manipulation prior to commencing the IGT. Participants in the anxiety condition performed significantly worse than those in the control group on the IGT. However, OC symptomatology did not significantly predict IGT performance. The experience of anxiety did not significantly moderate the relationship between OC symptomatology and IGT performance. These findings indicate that decision-making differences do not occur as a function of OC symptomatology in a non-clinical sample; however, they do suggest that the experience of anxiety significantly impairs decision-making performance. The theoretical and practical applications of the findings are discussed.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Dr Mairwen Jones, Discipline of Behavioural and Social Sciences in Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, PO Box 170, Lidcombe 1825 NSW, Australia. Email:
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Behaviour Change
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