Choose Your Adventure: A Novel Paradigm for Measuring Perseverative Thought
Perseverative thought (PT) includes repetitive negative thinking such as worry and rumination. PT is strongly associated with anxiety and depression and is therefore of great interest to clinical psychologists. Unfortunately, current measures of PT have important limitations. Most measures are trait-based. They are reliable, but fail to assess how PT changes in response to momentary stressors or challenges. State-based, experimental measures capture PT in specific contexts, but have so far been limited by the use of static, rather than dynamic, stimuli. Another limitation has been passive exposure to stimuli, meaning that participants weren’t required to make choices or to attempt to resolve the stressful situation presented.
To measure PT under conditions that more closely mimic those occurring in real life, we created a computerized paradigm modeled after the popular “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. Participants were exposed to an immersive, extended story that unfolded dynamically over time. They were also presented with choices that affected how the story unfolded.