This article presents two studies that examine the hypothesis that obsessive-compulsive (OC) tendencies are associated with a general deficiency in subjective conviction, which leads to seeking and reliance on external proxies to compensate for that deficiency. We examined this hypothesis using a biofeedback-aided relaxation procedure. In Study 1 low OC participants performed better on a relaxation task than high OC participants. More importantly, viewing the biofeedback monitor (an external proxy for the internal state of relaxation) had a different effect on the two groups: Whereas high OC participants performed better, low OC participants did not. In addition, when given the opportunity, high OC participants requested the biofeedback monitor more than did the low OC participants. In Study 2 high OC participants were more affected by false biofeedback when judging their level of relaxation compared to low OC participants. Real relaxation level differences between the two false biofeedback phases among the two groups were not found. These results provide preliminary support for the hypothesis that obsessive-compulsive disorder is associated with deficient subjective conviction in internal states and increased reliance on external proxies. Implications for the understanding of OCD-related rules and rituals as well as for cognitive therapy for OCD are discussed.
- Feeling of knowing
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder