Guilt and Compulsive Washing: Experimental Tests of Interrelationships
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- Cougle, J.R., Goetz, A.R., Hawkins, K.A. et al. Cogn Ther Res (2012) 36: 358. doi:10.1007/s10608-011-9359-x
Recent evidence suggests a potentially important relationship between guilt and compulsive washing. The present studies sought to clarify this relationship. In Study 1, we examined whether washing reduced guilt. Following guilt induction, 132 non-clinical participants were randomized to one of three conditions: hand-wiping, straightening of clutter, or a control task. Contrary to predictions, analyses indicated no differences between conditions in post-task guilt. Moderator analyses indicated that among those in the straightening task, higher ordering symptoms were associated with greater increases in guilt. Study 2 examined whether guilt increased washing behavior. Sixty-one non-clinical participants were randomized to either a guilt induction or neutral condition. Afterwards, participants were timed as they cleansed their hands. Individuals in the guilt induction condition washed significantly longer than those in the neutral condition. These findings suggest that hand-washing does not lead to unique reductions in guilt, but guilt may prolong hand-washing behavior. Theoretical and clinical implications are discussed.