|Ph.D Thesis||Department of Industrial Engineering and Management|
|Supervisor:||Assoc. Prof. Yechiam Eldad|
|Full Thesis text|
The dissertation investigates facets of decision-making underlying maladaptive habits in daily life, in an attempt to suggest potential ways to improve them. It is suggested that experiential decision style at the individual level may be a good predictor of the maintenance of some maladaptive habits. As a secondary goal, the dissertation assesses certain decision tasks as tools for predicting real-world behavior.
The first (preliminary) study examines the sensitivity to social desirability of two types of decision tasks: description-based and experience-based tasks. Participants who were required to impress others favorably were compared to controls. While the need to make good impression resulted in reduced risk-taking levels in the description-based tasks, the experience-based tasks were robust to this manipulation. This accents the validity of experience-based tasks in assessing individual differences.
The second study examines facets of decision-making and self-control associated with obesity. Obese participants were compared to normal-weight controls. We found that obese men (but not women) showed a generalized tendency toward risk-taking, a finding which reveals important similarities between the experiential decision making profiles of obese and drug-abusing males. This suggests that obesity in men is a form of addiction, and relates it to a bundle of addictive behaviors which are prevalent considerably among men. Interestingly, obese women displayed other impairments: they were relatively impulsive and somewhat unwilling to delay gratification. This pattern further highlights the importance of individual differences in these constructs to issues of self-control, and also suggests that gender confounds some of these differences.
The third study is an initial attempt at controlled prediction of and intervention in the manifestation of self control. We examined the extent to which various facets of
experiential decision-making predict successful recovery from a common, maladaptive habit: nail biting. We developed a nail biting cessation program, in which participants' resolve was aided by constantly-present reminders. Experimental comparisons revealed that the reminder-based treatment was generally successful, and the individual degree of success in it was effectively predicted by an experience-based decision task. This finding illuminates the importance of considering individual differences in decision-making when predicting exertion of self-control.