Anxiety disorders are characterized by a range of aberrations in the processing of and response to threat, but there is little consensus as to what core pathogenesis might underlie these symptoms. Here I propose a decision-theoretic account of anxiety wherein a particular unrealistically pessimistic assumption about the efficacy of future action can distort an agent’s behavior and underlie a host of seemingly disparate anxiety symptoms. I will show how this model makes a novel prediction about the value of free choice in anxious individuals and present data from a new experiment which shows, in line with our account, that the value of free choice is diminished in anxious individuals. Finally, I will conclude with a cautionary note about the risk of spurious correlations in online computational psychiatry experiments and the need for enhanced data quality screening.









Sam Zorowitz
PhD Candidate at the Princeton
Neuroscience Institute, Princeton University

Samuel Zorowitz – The value of free choice in anxious individuals