Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Wu, Kevin D.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Obsessive-compulsive disorder; Cognitive therapy; Compulsive behavior


This study sought to empirically assess the theoretically suggested relationship---according to the cognitive-behavioral model---among cognitive beliefs in producing obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Two beliefs were identified: the belief that one is responsible for negative effects of thoughts and behaviors by either failing to prevent or acting to cause harm (inflated responsibility) and the belief that thoughts about negative events happening to others can increase their likelihood of occurring (thought-action fusion likelihood-others [TAF-LO]). A sample of N = 102 students participated in a manipulation of inflated responsibility by completing a linguistically altered measure of responsibility that either encouraged (high responsibility [HR]) or discouraged (low responsibly [LR]) views of oneself as overly responsible for negative outcomes and reading corresponding feedback; the control group completed a distraction task. Next, participants completed the sentence "I hope (loved one) is in a car accident today" followed by in vivo ratings of anxiety, likelihood, moral wrongness, urge to neutralize, responsibility, blame, and guilt if the event were to occur. Participants then reported any behavioral or cognitive responses to the task. Results suggest that the manipulation was unsuccessful based on the stringent definition of changes in total scores on a 30-item responsibility and threat estimation beliefs questionnaire. One-tailed t-test demonstrated that the HR condition reported significantly higher ratings of responsibility following the task compared to LR condition. A one-way ANOVA found that the HR condition reported significantly higher ratings of post-sentence anxiety (vs control), guilt (vs LR), and urge to neutralize (vs control) as well as significantly greater increases in anxiety from baseline (vs control). The moderation analyses comparing the strength of the relationship of baseline TAF-LO to the urge to neutralize or number of self-reported neutralizing responses were nonsignificant. Using transformed variables, in vivo appraisals of the likelihood of the negative event occurring mediated the relationship between baseline TAF-LO and the outcome variables of (1) the urge to neutralize, (2) number of self-reported neutralizing responses, and (3) whether a person did or did not neutralize. However, conditional process analyses examining the moderation of the relationship between the mediating variable of in vivo likelihood appraisals and any of the three outcome variables were not supported. Methodological limitations, theoretical implications, and future research directions are discussed.


Advisors: Kevin D. Wu.||Committee members: Michelle Lilly; Brad Sagarin; David Valentiner; Karen White; Scott Wickman.||Includes bibliographical references.


ix, 155 pages




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