Cognitive variables as moderators in the relationship between obsessive compulsive symptoms and attention and memory deficits

Erica L Burgoon, Fordham University


Two theoretical approaches have largely guided the conceptualization and treatment of OCD. Cognitive theories, which highlight specific beliefs or appraisal styles believed to play a role in obsessive compulsive (OC) symptomatology, and neuropsychological theories, which emphasize the relationship between specific deficits in functioning and OC symptomatology, have both received support in recent years and have also had the greatest impact on treatment strategy. Although the treatment techniques offered by each theory may be integrated in clinical practice, throughout the literature these perspectives are usually treated as mutually exclusive. The current study was an attempt to demonstrate a relationship between the specific variables associated with each theoretical approach. Specifically, it was hypothesized that two cognitive variables—perception of responsibility and magical ideation—would moderate the relationship between two neuropsychological variables—attention and memory—and OC symptomatology. In addition, it was hypothesized that memory functioning would be further impaired in the presence of emotionally valenced stimuli among participants in an OC analogue group. It was also hypothesized that a stronger association would be found between OC symptomatology and magical ideation than OC symptomatology and another cognitive correlate previously associated with OCD, thought action fusion. Two hundred thirteen students from Fordham University participated in a screening phase for the study during which they completed five self-report measures to assess variables of interest. Eighty-six of these participants were recruited for an experimental phase during which they completed tasks of attention and memory. The participants in the experimental phase were assigned to one of three groups—an OC analogue group, an anxious control group, and a non-anxious control group. A significant relationship was observed between all cognitive variables and OC symptomatology. No significant relationship was observed between any of the neuropsychological measures and OC symptomatology. Regression analyses testing for the moderating relationships hypothesized were conducted based on a hypothesized relationship between OC symptomatology and attention and memory, respectively. All but one of these models was non-significant. There was a marginally significant effect found for emotionally valenced material on memory in the anxiety control group. No other significant effects regarding this hypothesis were obtained. Similar associations between OC symptomatology and both MI and TAF, and between anxiety and both MI and TAF, were observed. Significantly stronger associations between both OC symptomatology and MI and one type of TAF, likelihood, were observed compared to another type of TAF, morality. Implications of positive findings, biases and limitations that may have contributed to a lack of significant finding, and suggestions for future research are discussed.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Cognitive therapy

Recommended Citation

Burgoon, Erica L, "Cognitive variables as moderators in the relationship between obsessive compulsive symptoms and attention and memory deficits" (2007). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3286414.