Hannah Faleer

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Wu, Kevin D.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Obsessive-compulsive disorder; Anxiety disorders; Uncertainty


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a heterogeneous mental disorder characterized by the presence of obsessions and compulsions that can have debilitating effects on the lives of individuals affected by it. Whereas obsessions and compulsions can fixate on nearly any subject, they tend to cluster around certain themes (e.g., cleaning, checking, symmetry). From a cognitive-behavioral perspective, certain dysfunctional beliefs or attitudes are believed to contribute to the etiology and maintenance of OCD. One of these beliefs is intolerance of uncertainty (IU), the tendency for an individual to avoid ambiguous situations and view him or herself as unable to cope in the face of uncertainty. It has been suggested that the manifestation of particular compulsions may be affected by the presence of certain dysfunctional beliefs; IU may be more highly implicated in specific OC symptoms, such as checking. To date, research on IU primarily has been conducted in the context of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Although there has been growing interest in IU in the OCD literature, the majority of research has been correlational in nature. Moreover, few studies have examined IU as a causal risk factor for checking compulsions. The current study manipulated IU through a false-feedback paradigm and examined its effects on overestimation of threat (another cognitive vulnerability believed to contribute to OCD), worry, and a computerized delayed matching-to-sample task designed to measure checking behavior. By offering an experimental examination of IU as a causal risk factor for the presence of checking behavior, this study contributes an important step in understanding the effects of dysfunctional beliefs on compulsions in the context of OCD. Participants were 122 students who completed baseline questionnaires and a two-part IU manipulation. In Phase 1, participants completed a modified IU questionnaire, rating each statement as "true" or "false". In the high IU condition, each statement was paired with the qualifier "occasionally" to induce participants to endorse more items; in the low IU condition, each statement was paired with the qualifier "almost always" to induce participants to endorse fewer items. In Phase 2, participants received false feedback: participants in the high condition received feedback that they do not tolerate certainty well; participants in the low condition received the opposite feedback. Following the manipulation, participants completed a second questionnaire battery and then engaged in a delayed matching-to-sample computerized task which measured accuracy, response time, and number of checks. Results indicated that conditions were significantly different on IU scores following the manipulation (t₍₈₀₎ = 3.711, p < .001, d = .80) and participants endorsed significantly different worry scores (t₍₈₁₎ = 2.25, p = .027). The experimental manipulation did not, however, distinguish conditions on checking behavior. The conditions did not differ on task accuracy (t₍₈₀₎ = .601, p = .55), response time (t₍₈₀₎ = -1.51, p = .14), or number of checks (t₍₇₇₎ = -.728, p = .46), nor were conditions significantly different on threat estimation scores, (t₍₈₁₎ = 1.08, p = .28). These results suggest that the IU manipulation was successful in altering IU levels for one of two conditions and affecting worry, but it did not appear to have an effect on analog checking behavior or threat estimation.


Advisors: Kevin D. Wu.||Committee members: Michelle M. Lilly; David P. Valentiner.||Includes bibliographical references.


iv, 81 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type