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Priming Moral Self-Ambivalence Heightens Deliberative Behaviour in Self-Ambivalent Individuals

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Susan Thorpe


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Background: Recent work on cognitive-behavioural models of obsessive-compulsive disorder has focused on the roles played by various aspects of self-perception. In particular, moral self-ambivalence has been found to be associated with obsessive-compulsive phenomena.Aims: In this study we used an experimental task to investigate whether artificially priming moral self-ambivalence would increase participants’ deliberation on ethical problems, an index which might be analogous to obsessive-compulsive behaviour. Method: Non-clinical participants completed two on-line tasks designed to prime either moral self-ambivalence, general uncertainty or neither. All participants then completed a task requiring them to consider solutions to moral dilemmas. We recorded the time participants took to respond to the dilemmas and the length of their responses; we then combined these variables to create a measure of deliberation.Results: Priming moral self-ambivalence led to increases in deliberation, but this was only significant among those participants who scored highly on a baseline measure of moral self-ambivalence. Priming general uncertainty had no significant effect upon deliberation.Conclusions: The results suggest that moral self-ambivalence may play a role in the maintenance of obsessive-compulsive behaviour. We propose that individuals who are morally self-ambivalent might respond to situations in which this ambivalence is made salientby exhibiting behaviour with obsessive-compulsive characteristics. These findings have implications for the incorporation of ideas about self-concept into theories of obsessive compulsive disorder.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Perera-Delcourt R, Nash R, Thorpe SJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy

Year: 2013

Volume: 12

Pages: 1-11

Print publication date: 27/09/2013

ISSN (print): 1352-4658

ISSN (electronic): 1469-1833

Publisher: Cambridge University Press


DOI: 10.1017/S1352465813000507


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