Obsessive-compulsive symptoms are related to reduced awareness of emotional valence

Amit Lazarov*, Aharon Friedman, Omri Comay, Nira Liberman, Reuven Dar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The Seeking Proxies for Internal States (SPIS) model of OCD asserts that obsessive-compulsive (OC) tendencies are associated with attenuated access to internal states. Here we explore the implications of this model for awareness of emotional valence. Methods: In Study 1, participants with high and low OC tendencies (n = 30 in each group) rated how they felt while viewing different pictures with positive, neutral, or negative valence taken from the International Affective Picture System. Study 2 replicated Study 1 among non-selected participants (n = 99) that rated positive and negative pictures chosen from the recently developed Basic-Emotions Nencki Affective Picture System. In both studies, mean deviation from norm ratings (of each picture system) served as the primary outcome measure. Results: Study 1 showed that high OC participants’ mean deviation score was significantly higher, compared with low OC participants, across positive, neutral, and negative pictures (p=.01). Follow-up analyses revealed that while no group difference emerged for mean valence rating (p=.16), groups differed on the mean standard deviation of ratings within each valence category (p=.002). In Study 2, only OC tendencies, not depressive or anxiety symptoms, were positively correlated with mean deviation from norm ratings (p=.026). Dividing the sample to high and low OC groups based on an OC cutoff score yielded similar group differences to those observed in Study 1 (p<.001). Limitations: Analog samples and a relative small sample size (Study 1). Conclusions: This study suggests that OC symptoms are associated with reduced awareness of emotional valence, possibly emanating from a noisier emotional perception.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-37
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2020


  • Emotional awareness
  • Emotional valence
  • Internal states
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive symptoms


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