Validating a dimension of doubt in decisionmaking: A proposed endophenotype for obsessive-compulsive disorder

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Doubt is subjective uncertainty about one's perceptions and recall. It can impair decisionmaking and is a prominent feature of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). We propose that evaluation of doubt during decision-making provides a useful endophenotype with which to study the underlying pathophysiology of OCD and potentially other psychopathologies. For the current study, we developed a new instrument, the Doubt Questionnaire, to clinically assess doubt. The random dot motion task was used to measure reaction time and subjective certainty, at varying levels of perceptual difficulty, in individuals who scored high and low on doubt, and in individuals with and without OCD. We found that doubt scores were significantly higher in OCD cases than controls. Drift diffusion modeling revealed that high doubt scores predicted slower evidence accumulation than did low doubt scores; and OCD diagnosis lower than controls. At higher levels of dot coherence, OCD participants exhibited significantly slower drift rates than did controls (q<0.05 for 30%, and 45% coherence; q<0.01 for 70% coherence). In addition, at higher levels of coherence, high doubt subjects exhibited even slower drift rates and reaction times than low doubt subjects (q<0.01 for 70% coherence). Moreover, under high coherence conditions, individuals with high doubt scores reported lower certainty in their decisions than did those with low doubt scores. We conclude that the Doubt Questionnaire is a useful instrument for measuring doubt. Compared to those with low doubt, those with high doubt accumulate evidence more slowly and report lower certainty when making decisions under conditions of low uncertainty. High doubt may affect the decision-making process in individuals with OCD. The dimensional doubt measure is a useful endophenotype for OCD research and could enable computationally rigorous and neurally valid understanding of decision-making and its pathological expression in OCD and other disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0218182
JournalPloS one
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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