Contemporary methods in delayed discounting: Applications for suicidology with simulation

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OBJECTIVE: To present an approach for integrating recently developed methods in behavioral economics into suicidology research. At present, existing applications of delay discounting in suicidology have focused predominantly on hypothetical choices related to monetary value as a proxy to "risky" choices linked to unsafe or suicidal behavior. In this report, we outline a more targeted approach that directly indexes choices related to treatment in suicide prevention initiatives and incorporates the strengths afforded by multi-level modeling. This more targeted approach precludes the need for multi-step comparisons (improving power), avoids compressing choice variability across delays into individual values (improving precision), and better accommodates decision-making at the upper and lower extremes (improving reliability). METHOD: We present this analytical approach within the context of a Hypothetical Firearm Decision-making Task with simulated participants. A simulated study is provided to illustrate how this approach can be used to evaluate how individuals make temporally delayed decisions related to treatment for suicidal behavior (i.e., temporarily limiting their access to firearms while undergoing treatment). RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: The results of this simulated study are provided to illustrate how more advanced behavioral decision-making models can be used to supplement existing research methods in suicidology.

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Suicide & life-threatening behavior

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