Cognition in Hoarding

Exploring the Cognitive Underpinnings of Hoarding


The hallmark feature of hoarding disorder is the extreme over-valuing of objects most people would consider useless or trivial, and consequent emotional distress over discarding these objects. As a result, the home becomes too full to use some or all of the living areas for their intended purpose. Not only is there a lot of stuff, but also the stuff is extremely disorganized, with important (e.g., passport) and unimportant (e.g., out-dated sales flyers) possessions mixed together. This line of research, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research aims to determine the cognitive underpinnings of key features of hoarding: excessive valuing of objects and extreme disorganization of the home.The 5-year research plan involves two major parts. The first arm assesses hoarding-specific impairment on established neuropsychological tests of attention and memory, decision-making, inhibitory control, categorization and planning/organization. The second arm examines established cognitive effects of ownership within the context of individuals who have problems with hoarding behaviour. For example, we will study ownership bias in attention and memory as well as judgments of value with regard to possessions. Results of this research have direct implications for strategies, such as cognitive rehabilitation or strategic decision framing, to shape the next generation of cognitive behavioural treatment for hoarding.