Metacognitive impairments extend perceptual decision making weaknesses in compulsivity.

03 Jul 2018

Awareness of one's own abilities is of paramount importance in adaptive decision making. Psychotherapeutic theories assume such metacognitive insight is impaired in compulsivity, though this is supported by scant empirical evidence. In this study, we investigate metacognitive abilities in compulsive participants using computational models, where these enable a segregation between metacognitive and perceptual decision making impairments. We examined twenty low-compulsive and twenty high-compulsive participants, recruited from a large population-based sample, and matched for other psychiatric and cognitive dimensions. Hierarchical computational modelling of the participants' metacognitive abilities on a visual global motion detection paradigm revealed that high-compulsive participants had a reduced metacognitive ability. This impairment was accompanied by a perceptual decision making deficit whereby motion-related evidence was accumulated more slowly in high compulsive participants. Our study shows that the compulsivity spectrum is associated with a reduced ability to monitor one's own performance, over and above any perceptual decision making difficulties.