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Obsessive -compulsive disorder and *attention

James Adam Burns, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Present cognitive theories of OCD cite the importance of cognitive schemas of attributing danger to external stimuli as an etiological and maintaining factor in OCD. Information related to fear structures captures attentional resources under low state anxiety conditions. Recently, unexpected results have emerged that suggest when under conditions of threat, biases toward this information disappears. Experimenters postulated that under threat, a narrowing of the stimulus field occurs and individuals reallocate attentional resources toward the stimulus with the highest threat value. The present study examines this attentional phenomenon using the modified Stroop color-naming paradigm under different levels of arousal. OCD participants ought to have an attentional bias toward OCD negative words (i.e. idiographic and general), prior to high state-anxiety. It was hypothesized a mood manipulation would significantly increase OCD participants state-anxiety and suppress the Stroop effect for OCD words. Participants color-named words related to OCD before and after observing disturbing pictures of contaminated material. The design was a mixed factorial design with repeated measures under differing levels of arousal with group membership as the between factors condition. A measure of state-anxiety given before and after the mood manipulation provided a test of its fidelity. This study examines the nature of cognitive processes concerning mechanisms of change in exposure therapy for OCD, which involves elevations in state anxiety in order to engage in rational processing of feared stimuli. Results suggest that regardless of condition, OCD participants selectively processed idiographic OCD words. Unexpectedly, they did not selectively process negative-OCD or idiographic OCD words, and the mood manipulation did not raise state-anxiety high enough to test the suppression effect. The results do not support the emotionality hypothesis theory of Stroop interference because positive words were rated as highly emotional but were not selectively processed. Other results and their implications for cognitive theory are discussed. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Clinical

Recommended Citation

Burns, James Adam, "Obsessive -compulsive disorder and *attention" (2002). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3070124.