Date of Award

Summer 7-30-2022

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

School

Psychology

Committee Chair

Daniel Capron

Committee Chair School

Psychology

Committee Member 2

Randolph Arnau

Committee Member 2 School

Psychology

Committee Member 3

Michael Anestis

Committee Member 3 School

Psychology

Committee Member 4

Craig Bryan

Committee Member 4 School

Psychology

Abstract

Suicide rates have continually increased from 1999 to 2019 in the United States, with populations such as military Veterans showing substantially higher suicide death and attempt rates than civilians. Behavioral economics researchers have demonstrated that people regularly make decisions that are not aligned with their own self-interests (i.e., irrational decisions). These irrational decisions often stem from humans having bounded rationality (i.e., limited computational power), which produce reliable cognitive biases that occur outside of people’s awareness and influence the decisions they make. There are many important decisions leading up to a suicide attempt (e.g., whether to engage with suicide prevention resources), and it is likely that these same biases pervade suicide-relevant decisions. This study tests a behavioral economic intervention - nudges - as a potential way to increase engagement with suicide prevention resources in a sample of US military veterans (N = 457) using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Results showed that overall, nudges were no more effective than control messages at increasing engagement with crisis resources. Only Social Norms were more effective than control messages and one other nudge group (using a Veteran suicide story). Further, findings indicated that participants were more likely to engage with crisis lines compared to safety plans. Exploratory analyses revealed that depression scores and higher delayed discounting scores were two correlates associated with crisis resource engagement overall. Limitations of this study included high data loss due to poor quality, suggesting that Amazon’s Mechanical Turk may be an inappropriate platform for testing the effect of nudges on behavior. Future studies should consider using social media to test nudges so that researchers can more adequately test and refine messages in a naturalistic setting.

ORCID ID

0000-0002-8939-4100

Available for download on Thursday, September 01, 2022

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