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The induction of mental and contact contamination

Lee, M., Shafran, R., Burgess, C., Carpenter, J., Millard, E. and Thorpe, S. (2013) The induction of mental and contact contamination. Clinical Psychologist, 17 (1). pp. 9-16. ISSN 1097-4679

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/cp.12003


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

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
ID Code:31319

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