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Publication Date


Document Type

Honors Project




Compulsive hoarding, Compulsive hoarding-Treatment, Habituation (Neuropsychology), Decision making-Psychological aspects, Hoarding, Hoarding disorder, Discarding, Habituation


The present study addressed four broad research questions: 1) During a discarding task, do hoarding individuals differ from controls in discarding behavior, distress, and possession attachment motives? 2) Does cognitive restructuring result in increased discarding, reduced emotional distress, and lower levels of possession attachment motives? 3) Does cognitive restructuring result in more rapid habituation of distress after discarding? 4) What predicts discarding behavior among people who hoard? In the present experiment, participants had to decide whether to discard or save two types of objects (personal possessions or a newly acquired object) following either a thought listing (TL) or cognitive restructuring (CR) task. Although the hoarding/TL group anticipated greater and longer-lasting distress and reported stronger attachment motives than the control/TL group, they did not differ significantly from controls in their discarding behavior. There was also some evidence that TL was more effective than CR in changing the behavior, affect, and attachments associated with discarding among hoarding participants. One interpretation of these results is that thought listing encouraged participants to confront the decision-making process in discarding, which they would typically avoid; another is that they experienced therapeutic reactance to CR but not TL. In addition, hoarding severity was found to be a weak predictor of discarding behavior. However, contrary to predictions, greater severity was associated with more discarding. Finally, the hoarding group exhibited a decrease in distress over time after discarding, indicating that habituation does occur and that hoarding individuals are able to tolerate the negative affect that arises from discarding. No difference was found between conditions in their patterns of habituation, suggesting that habituation may play a more significant role than cognitive activities in the discarding process.




74 p. Honors project-Smith College, 2013. Includes bibliographical references (p. 40-46)