Data and methods Accepted project proposals Intertemporal impatience across mental health symptoms in a non-clinical community sample

Author: Bernd Figner, Floor Burghoorn
Affiliation(s): Behavioral Science Institute, Radboud University
Keywords: intertemporal choice, delay discounting, mental health, transdiagnostic, RDoC
Research question(s):

What is the relation between intertemporal impatience and each mental health category separately?
What is the relation between intertemporal impatience and mental health across mental health categories?
What is the relation between intertemporal impatience and mental health symptoms?

Link: OSF Preregistration



Intertemporal impatience refers to the willingness to forego large rewards to receive smaller rewards sooner. This impatience has been found to be implicated across various mental health problems, such as substance abuse and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). For instance, a patient suffering from addiction may choose the immediate high of a drug over their long-term mental health. Following these findings, intertemporal impatience has been proposed as a transdiagnostic construct contributing to the emergence, persistence, and severity of mental health problems. A shared increased impatience across mental health problems may additionally contribute to the substantial comorbidity between these problems. In line with the Research Domain Criteria framework, studying such transdiagnostic, underlying processes promises to increase our understanding of mental health problems, and improve interventions that target these underlying processes.

Despite the proposed transdiagnostic role of intertemporal impatience, the majority of existing research has investigated its role per mental health category separately. We will attempt to replicate these per-category findings, but will additionally adopt a trans-category approach. That is, in line with recent work, we will examine how mental health categories cluster together, hereby accounting for the comorbidity between mental health problems, and subsequently test how each of the resulting clusters relate to intertemporal impatience. We use a wide variety of self-report mental health measures, including measures that assess psychological well-being or psychopathology (e.g., anxiety and depression), as well as measures that assess other psychological processes or behaviours that are important for mental health and that may be related to intertemporal impatience (e.g., impulsivity and emotion regulation). By going beyond the more traditional definition of mental health as (the absence of) psychopathology, and including other constructs relevant to mental health, we aim to gain a broad understanding of mental health and its relation to intertemporal impatience.

Given the heterogeneity of symptoms within mental health categories, it is important to not only assess the relation between intertemporal impatience and mental health on scale-level, but to also understand which specific symptoms are related to impatience. This allows us to examine the possibility that only some, but not all symptoms of one category, or cluster of categories, are associated with intertemporal impatience. Therefore, going beyond previous work, we will additionally investigate how the individual mental health symptoms cluster together, and how they are related to intertemporal impatience. By combining these scale-level and item-level approaches, we aim to gain more specific knowledge about the relation between intertemporal impatience and mental health.