ISSN 2043-8087
Journal of Experimental Psychopathology
 Volume 6, Issue 2, 126-137, 2015
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Repeated checking induces uncertainty about future threat

Authors
  Catharina Giele - Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, Utrecht University
  Iris Engelhard - Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, Utrecht University
  Marcel van den Hout - Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, Utrecht University
  Eliane Dek - Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, Utrecht University
  Marianne Damstra - Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, Utrecht University
  Ellen Douma - Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, Utrecht University

Volume 6, Issue 2, 2015, Pages 126-137
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5127/jep.040113

Abstract
Studies have shown that obsessive-compulsive (OC) -like repeated checking paradoxically increases memory uncertainty. This study tested if checking also induces uncertainty about future threat by impairing the distinction between danger and safety cues. Participants (n = 54) engaged in a simulated checking task, in which they completed two series of 19 checking trials. The experimental group checked burners on a stove and the control group checked light bulbs. Participants completed two pre-tests (before the first series of checks) and two posttests (one after the first series of checks, the other after the second series). In these tests, they first checked the stove and answered questions about memory confidence and accuracy. Then one of two conditioned stimuli (CS; i.e., a circle) was presented. A CS+ replaced a burner that was on, and a CS- replaced a burner that had been switched off. During each CS presentation, participants rated their shock (UCS) expectancy and confidence about UCS occurrence. Next, the CS+ was followed by the UCS. Analyses showed that the first series of checks did not affect memory accuracy and UCS expectancy, but did reduce confidence about memory and about UCS occurrence in the experimental group, relative to the control group. The second series of checks did not lead to these group differences, compared to the first series. The results demonstrate that repeated checking increases uncertainty not only about memory, but also about future threat.

Table of Contents
Introduction
Method
 Participants
 Stimulus Materials
 Procedure
  Practice and acquisition phase
  Pre-tests
  Relevant vs. irrelevant checking
  Post-tests
 Assessments
  Memory accuracy
  Memory confidence
  UCS expectancy
  Confidence about UCS occurrence
  Subjective aversiveness of the task
Results
 Memory accuracy
 Memory confidence
 UCS expectancy
 Confidence about UCS occurrence
 Subjective aversiveness of the task
Discussion
Acknowledgements
References

Correspondence to
atharina L. Giele, Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, Utrecht University, PO Box 80140, 3508 TC Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Keywords
OCD, checking, uncertainty, memory, threat

Dates
Received 13 Nov 2013; Revised 14 Feb 2014; Accepted 27 Feb 2014; In Press 26 Apr 2015







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