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The induction of mental and contact contamination

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Susan Thorpe


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Background: Extreme fear of contamination within obsessive compulsivedisorder (OCD) is traditionally conceptualised as a physical phenomenon.More recent research has supported the notion of “mental” contamination(MC) in which people feel contaminated in the absence of physical contact.The current research sought to determine whether feelings of contact contamination (CC) and MC could be induced within a non-clinical sample,whether the impact of MC and CC was comparable in terms of associatedfeelings and behaviour, and whether related psychopathology related to theimpact of the tasks.Methods: Undergraduate students (n = 60) completed OCD relevant measures and were randomly assigned to either a CC condition (moving a bucketof fake vomit) or an MC condition (thinking about a bucket of vomit).Results: Both manipulations induced feelings of contamination. Participantsin the contact condition had significantly greater urge to wash than those inthe mental condition. Neutralising behaviour did not differ across conditions.Conclusions: Feelings of contamination can be induced in the absence ofphysical contact and for those in the MC group some aspects of OCD-relevantpsychopathology were related to the impact of the manipulation. These findings have implications for

Publication metadata

Author(s): Lee M, Shafran R, Burgess C, Carpenter J, Millard E, Thorpe SJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Clinical Psychologist

Year: 2013

Volume: 17

Issue: 1

Pages: 9-16

ISSN (print): 1328-4207

ISSN (electronic): 1742-9552

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell


DOI: 10.1111/cp.12003


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