Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by, amongst others, a general tendency to be insecure about one’s own memory (MacDonald, Antony, MacLeod & Richter, 1997). This is a supposed cause of the dysfunctional checking behavior many patients spend large amounts of time on. Findings of van den Hout & Kindt (2003) and Radomsky, Gilchrist, & Dussault (2006) suggest, however, that repeated checking actually results in less confidence in memory. Staring also results in less trust in perception (van den Hout, Engelhard, de Boer, du Bois & Dek, 2008; van den Hout, Engelhard, Smeets, Dek, Turksma & Saric, 2009). This lack of confidence is directed explicitly at the checked stimulus, in contrast with the general insecurity mentioned above. In the current study perseveration was measured using a spelling checking task where participants checked and corrected a text filled with spelling errors. Insecurity about the task was manipulated by adding a new error halfway through the task in the experimental condition only. In an attempt to explain the underlying mechanisms and onset of OCD, it was hypothesized that (a) general memory distrust leads to repeated checking, (b) insecurity directed to a certain stimulus leads to extended checking of that stimulus, and (c) the effect of directed insecurity on repeated checking is greatest in people who generally distrust their memory. A 2 (groups based on cognitive confidence: high versus low) * 2 (condition based on the specific insecurity: experimental versus condition) between subjects factorial design was used. Results indicate that the manipulation of directed insecurity was not very successful; certainty and time spent checking didn’t differ between both conditions. It is argued that while the hypotheses are not confirmed in the analyses, they can’t be discarded because of this. Implications are made regarding task development, and suggestions are made for further research in understanding OCD
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