Trial document




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  DRKS00005449

Trial Description

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Title

Research of differences in the quality of decisions among depressive and healthy persons using the secretary problem as a paradigma

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Trial Acronym

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URL of the Trial

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Brief Summary in Lay Language

The diagnosis of depression is often associated with reports of concentration disorders and problems in decision-making by the affected patients. This symptom complex is so common that it has been included in the current diagnostic systems. Interestingly, in the research there is an inconsistent pattern of results. In some studies acute depressive subjects tend to be better in decision making than healthy subjects while in other studies, in turn, healthy people seem to be better in the context of decision tasks. The aim of this study is therefore to investigate the cognitive performance in decision-making while comparing a depressive sample to a healthy control group to better understand the symptom and therefore depression per se.
In the proposed work, the cognitive performance of depressed patients and healthy persons will be studied by using a sequential decision-task. Potential differences will be tested by different possible explanations. To do so different variations of the secretary-problem are used in the study. In this problem the participant gets presented sequentially fictitious applicants for a job on the computer.
The participant will be told how good each applicant is compared to the previous seen applicants. He has to decide whether he takes the actual applicant or not. The better the selected candidate is, the more points the participant will gain. Furthermore, it will be investigated to what extent the current mental state, mental stress, personality characteristics and cognitive performance will have an impact on the decision-making behavior. In addition, it will be analyzed, what decision criteria the participants have chosen.
Some of the participants will be additionally tested after a ¾ year (approximately the duration of a short term therapy). They will once again work on a variation of the secretary problem (with another theme like choosing the best partner). It will be tested if the found differences and tendencies occur only during a depressive episode or if they rather are stable and some kind of a personality trait.

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Brief Summary in Scientific Language

The performance of depressed patients compared to a healthy control group in sequential decisions will be studied and possible explanations for potential differences will be tested.
Different variations of the secretary problem (SP) will be used. The SP is a sequential decision task in which a decision-maker has to select the best alternative out of a series of sequentially presented propositions. One variant that often is used is the one in which the participant puts himself in the role of a company manager who wants to hire a secretary. All applicants for the job can be put in place of an absolute ranking order (i.e. there is always a best, second best etc. candidate).
The candidates are seen one after another and the decision-maker only gets to know the relative rank of the applicant (that means how good the applicant is compared to the so far seen applicants). After each “interview”, the decision-maker has to decide whether he wants to hire the applicant or not. If he doesn’t the rejected applicant can’t be called back. The aim of the decision-maker is to hire the (absolute) best secretary. In addition to these features, the SP is characterized by an (mathematically derivable; cf. Ferguson, 1989) optimal solution strategy, that can be compared to the actual behavior of the subjects.
The aim of the proposed study, based on variations of the SP, is to test different explanations against each other regarding the performance of depressives in decision tasks and to verify their empirical adequacy. Overall 40 depressives and 40 healthy persons are planned to be examined. Part of the depressed and healthy subjects (20 per group) shall be asked to do the simple SP at the beginning (T1) and at the end of the therapy (after a ¾ year: T2). As in the study of Helversen et al. (2011) the subjects are asked to select the best applicant out of 40 in a sp (60 times). The reward will be paid depending on the absolute rank of the selected candidate (analog the experimental set-up of von Helversen et al., 2011). It will be checked, whether depressive’s fear of failure lets them learn faster than healthy subjects to choose the best applicant in the sp. In addition, it will be checked whether the trends found only occur at T1 in the context of depression or if it’s kind of a trait and occurs also at T2. A second group of depressed and healthy subjects will do a complex version of the sp as well as a punishing variation of it. It is expected that, if there is a higher relevance of punishment sensitivity, the depressive subjects of the punishment variation will achieve faster higher cut-off values than those of the first group (simple/neutral sp). In contrast to the simple sp in which only one rank information must be taken into account, the subjects that work on the complex sp will have two rank information to take into consideration for their decision (cf. Bearden, Murphy & Rapoport, 2005). Regarding the assumptions of the information processing approach it follows that depressives are worse in the complex task than healthy subjects, because they can only use less information effectively (cf. Conway & Giannopoulos, 1993). While depressed should perform equally well or better as the healthy subjects regarding the simple sp (see von Helversen et al., 2011), they should be worse regarding the complex sp. Furthermore, the influence of intelligence, motivation, personality, emotional well-being and the severity of depression on the decision behavior should be investigated.

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Organizational Data

  •   DRKS00005449
  •   2013/12/18
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  •   yes
  •   Approved
  •   Ethikkommission vergibt keine Nummern/no number available, Ethikkommission des psychologischen Instituts der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
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Secondary IDs

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Health Condition or Problem studied

  •   F32 -  Depressive episode
  •   F33 -  Recurrent depressive disorder
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Interventions/Observational Groups

  •   Experimental group 1: 20 depressive subjects (F32 or F33)

    1) questionnaires (demographics, BDI-II, BSI, PSWQ, STAI, MWTB, SPM short form, LMI-K, BFI-S, Emo-16)
    Duration: about 30 min

    2) Group 1: computer experiment (secretary problem (SP) neutral)
    Duration: about 60 min

    3) questionnaires (decision rules, information about the endogenous cost of the search, Emo-16)
    Duration: about 10 min

    4) Part 1, 2 and 3 again to T2 (3/4 year later)
    Duration: about 100 minutes
  •   Control group 1: 20 healthy subjects

    1) questionnaires (demographics, BDI-II, BSI, PSWQ, STAI, MWTB, SPM short form, LMI-K, BFI-S, Emo-16)
    Duration: about 30 min

    2) Group 1: computer experiment (SP neutral)
    Duration: about 60 min

    3) questionnaires (decision rules, information about the endogenous cost of the search, Emo-16)
    Duration: about 10 min

    4) Part 1, 2 and 3 again to T2 (3/4 year later)
    Duration: about 100 minutes
  •   Experimental group 2: 20 depressive subjects (F32 or F33)

    1) questionnaires (demographics, BDI-II, BSI, PSWQ, STAI, MWTB, SPM short form, LMI-K, BFI-S, Emo-16)
    Duration: about 30 min

    2) computer experiment (SP punishment and the complex version)
    Duration: about 120 minutes

    3) questionnaires (decision rules, information about the endogenous cost of the search, Emo-16)
    Duration: about 10 min
  •   Control group 2: 20 healthy subjects

    1) questionnaires (demographics, BDI-II, BSI, PSWQ, STAI, MWTB, SPM short form, LMI-K, BFI-S, Emo-16)
    Duration: about 30 min

    2) computer experiment (SP punishment and the complex version)
    Duration: about 120 minutes

    3) questionnaires (decision rules, information about the endogenous cost of the search, Emo-16)
    Duration: about 10 min
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Characteristics

  •   Non-interventional
  •   Other
  •   Non-randomized controlled trial
  •   Open (masking not used)
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  •   Other
  •   Basic research/physiological study
  •   Parallel
  •   N/A
  •   N/A
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Primary Outcome

Variant 1 for the experimental and control group 1: Experimental paradigm : The secretary-problem (sp) in the basic version (see Seale & Rapoport, 1997) with the variation that the subjects receive a certain amount of points, depending on whether they have chosen the best, second best or third best, etc. applicant. The amount of points varies depending on the selected absolute rank (cf. Bearden, Rapoport & Murphy, 2006). The points will be converted to a certain amount of money in the end.

Evaluated will be:

Performance: the average amount of points, that is, the average absolute rank of the chosen candidate at T1 (baseline) and at T2 (after a ¾ year or after a short-term therapy)

Search length: the average number of applicants considered at T1 (baseline) and at T2 (after a ¾ year or after a short-term therapy)

Relative rank: the average relative rank selected at T1 (baseline) and at T2 (after a ¾ year or after a short-term therapy)

Decision rules: the selected thresholds for the decisions of the subjects, ie. How many applicants will be let go by until a decision is made at T1 (baseline) and at T2 (after a ¾ year or after a short-term therapy)


Variant 2 for the experimental and control group 2: complex secretary-problem: two rank informations (two attributes) must be observed (see Bearden et al., 2005)

Evaluated will be:

Performance: the average amount of points, that is, the average absolute ranks of the chosen candidate at T1 (baseline)

Search length: the average number of applicants considered at T1 (baseline)

Relative rank: the average relative ranks selected at T1 (baseline)


Variant 3 for the experimental and control group 2: The secretary problem: punishment condition: Variation with respect to the obtained message, if not the best candidate is chosen -> "What a shame! You only have elected the xxx best. You just achieve xx points out of the possible 40 points”
Evaluated will be:

Performance: the average amount of points, that is, the average absolute rank of the chosen candidate at T1 (baseline)

Search length: the average number of applicants considered at T1 (baseline)

Relative rank: the average relative rank selected at T1 (baseline)

Decision rules: the selected thresholds for the decisions of the subjects, ie. How many applicants will be let go by until a decision is made at T1 (baseline)

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Secondary Outcome

Questionnaires for psychological description of the sample:

1) Degree of Depression: Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II; Hautzinger, Kuhner & Keller, 2006)

2) Global severity of symptoms: Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI; Franke, 2000)

3) Degree of worries: Penn State Worry Questionnaire (PSWQ; Stöber, 1995)

4) actual state of anxiety vs. anxiety as a trait: State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI; Laux, Glanzmann, Schaffner & Spielberger, 1981; 2 scale of 20 items to describe current anxiety and the trait anxiety)

5) crystallized intelligence: Mehrfachwahl-Wortschatz-Intelligenztest (MWT-B; Lehrl, 1977)

6) fluid intelligence: self-made short form of the Standard Progressive Matrices Test consisting of 14 Matrices (SPM; Raven, Raven & Court, 2000)

7) Personality traits: Big Five Inventory Short Version (BFI-S; Gerlitz & Schupp, 2005; 3 items per scale (extraversion, neuroticism, openness to experience, conscientiousness and agreeableness)

8) Performance and motivation: Leistungsmotivationsinventar-Kurzform (LMI-K, Schuler & Prochaska, 2000)

9) acquisition of the endogenous costs of the search and the decision rules within the SPs chosen by the subjects based on 10 self-constructed items (see Seale & Rapoport, 2000)

10) actual emotional state: Emo-16 ( Schmidt-Atzert & Hüppe, 1996)

Questionnaires 1-10 will be collected at T1 (at the beginning of the study with 80 subjects) and T2 (about a 3/4 year after T1, or at the end of a short-term therapy with 25 individual sessions for the 40 subjects in the control and experimental group 1).

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Countries of Recruitment

  •   Germany
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Locations of Recruitment

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Recruitment

  •   Actual
  •   2014/01/08
  •   80
  •   Monocenter trial
  •   National
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Inclusion Criteria

  •   Both, male and female
  •   18   Years
  •   65   Years
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Additional Inclusion Criteria

Essential requirements for participation are an age between 18-65 years, sufficient knowledge of the german language as well as the existence of a consent form.
DEP sample (subjects with a depressive disorder): It exists a diagnosis of major depression according to DSM-IV (SCID-through I).
Sample KG (Healthy control subjects without a mental disorder): No mental disorder according to DSM-IV (SCID-I) during the last 5 years. In addition, inconspicuous results in Brief Symptom Inventory (Franke, 2000).

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Exclusion Criteria

Exclusion criteria include the presence of a current addictive disorder, schizophrenic disorders, adult ADHD, personality disorders, eating disorders, and acute suicidal tendendcies.

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Addresses

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    • Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz Abteilung Klinische Psychologie und Psychotherapie
    • Mr.  Univ.-Prof. Dr.  Wolfgang  Hiller 
    • Wallstraße 3
    • 55122  Mainz
    • Germany
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    • Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster Arbeitseinheit psychologische Diagnostik und Persönlichkeitspsychologie
    • Mr.  Dr.  Steffen  Nestler 
    • Fliednerstraße 21
    • 48149  Münster
    • Germany
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    • Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz Abteilung Persönlichkeitspsychologie und Diagnostik
    • Mr.  Univ.-Prof. Dr.  Boris  Egloff 
    • Binger-Straße 14-16
    • 55122  Mainz
    • Germany
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    • Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz Abteilung Klinische Psychologie und Psychotherapie
    • Ms.  Dipl.-Psych.  Martha  Sander 
    • Wallstraße 3
    • 55122  Mainz
    • Germany
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    • Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz Abteilung Klinische Psychologie und Psychotherapie
    • Ms.  Dipl.-Psych.  Martha  Sander 
    • Wallstraße 3
    • 55122  Mainz
    • Germany
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Sources of Monetary or Material Support

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    • Poliklinische Institutsambulanz für Psychotherapie der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Abt. Forschung und Lehre
    • Wallstraße 3
    • 55122  Mainz
    • Germany
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Status

  •   Recruiting complete, follow-up complete
  •   2015/04/16
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Trial Publications, Results and other Documents

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