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Three decision-making tasks in cocaine-dependent patients: do they measure the same construct?

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Aims. Substance-abusing populations perform poorly on decision-making tasks related to delay and risk. These tasks include: (1) the Delay Discounting Procedure (DDP), in which choices are made between smaller-sooner and later-larger rewards, (2) the Gambling Task (GT), in which choices are made between alternatives varying in pay-off and punishment, and (3) the Rogers Decision-Making Task (RDMT) in which subjects choose between higher or lower probability gambles. We examine the interrelationship among these tasks.

Design. A test battery was created which included the DDP, GT and RDMT, as well as measures of impulsivity, intellectual functioning and drug use.

Setting. Subjects completed the test battery at an outpatient center, prior to beginning 12 weeks of treatment.

Participants. Thirty-two treatment-seeking cocaine dependent individuals (primarily African-American males) participated.

Findings. Performance on the GT was significantly correlated with performance on the DDP ( r = 0.37; p = 0.04). Reaction times on the RDMT correlated with performance on the GT ( r = 0.36, p = 0.04) and DDP ( r = 0.33, p = 0.07), but actual choices on the RDMT did not ( p > 0.9 for both). While no significant relationships were observed between task performance and impulsivity, IQ estimate was positively correlated with both the GT ( r = 0.44, p = 0.01) and RDMT ( r = 0.41, p = 0.021). Split half reliability data indicated higher reliability when using only data from the latter half of the GT ( r = 0.92 vs. r = 0.80).

Conclusions. These data offer preliminary evidence of overlap in the decision-making functioning tapped by these tasks. Possible implications for drug-taking behavior are discussed.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Center for the Study of Addictions, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, USA

Publication date: 2001-12-01

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