Anxious and obsessive-compulsive traits are independently associated with valuation of noninstrumental information.

Daniel Bennett, Kiran Sutcliffe, Nicholas Poh Jie Tan, Luke D. Smillie, Stefan Bode

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Aversion to uncertainty about the future has been proposed as a transdiagnostic trait underlying psychiatric diagnoses including obsessive–compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety. This association might explain the frequency of pathological information-seeking behaviors such as compulsive checking and reassurance-seeking in these disorders. Here we tested the behavioral predictions of this model using a noninstrumental information-seeking task that measured preferences for unusable information about future outcomes in different payout domains (gain, loss, and mixed gain/loss). We administered this task, along with a targeted battery of self-report questionnaires, to a general-population sample of 146 adult participants. Using computational cognitive modeling of choices to test competing theories of information valuation, we found evidence for a model in which preferences for costless and costly information about future outcomes were independent, and in which information preference was modulated by both outcome mean and outcome variance. Critically, we also found positive associations between a model parameter controlling preference for costly information and individual differences in latent traits of both anxiety and obsessive-compulsion. These associations were invariant across different payout domains, providing evidence that individuals high in obsessive–compulsive and anxious traits show a generalized increase in willingness-to-pay for unusable information about uncertain future outcomes, even though this behavior reduces their expected future reward. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)739-755
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • anxiety
  • aversion to uncertainty
  • computational modeling
  • information seeking
  • obsessive– compulsive disorder

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