Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 40, Issue 5, pp 627–644 | Cite as

Mindfulness, Obsessive–Compulsive Symptoms, and Executive Dysfunction

  • Katherine Crowe
  • Dean McKay
Original Article


Recent investigations have included mindfulness as a component of intervention for OCD. However, the extent to which processes underlying OCD interfere with mindfulness has not been examined. Limited research has examined neuropsychological functions as mechanisms to explain different levels of mindfulness across individuals. Research in OCD highlights impairment in visual/spatial working memory as possible unique deficits; these and other components of executive functioning may also be important for mindfulness. Participants (N = 103) exceeding clinical cutoffs on measures of OCD, depressive, or generalized anxiety symptoms, or were healthy controls, completed a self-report measure of mindfulness and computerized measures of working memory and cognitive inhibition. Results demonstrated the OCD group scored significantly lower than the anxiety and control groups on some facets of mindfulness. The OCD group performed significantly worse on visual but not spatial working memory compared to verbal working memory. Additionally, the OCD group showed significantly poorer performance on all working memory tasks compared to the control group but not in comparison to other groups. There were no significant differences between the OCD group and the depression group on any measure. Finally, regression models examining working memory and cognitive inhibition as predictors of mindfulness found some support for two of the five facets of mindfulness, though the individual predictors were not significant. Implications are discussed in the context of mindfulness and executive functioning in OCD in terms of future research and treatment.


Obsessive–compulsive disorder Mindfulness Visual working memory Spatial working memory Cognitive inhibition Executive functioning 



This study was funded by a Faculty Research Grant awarded by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of Fordham University to Dean McKay.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Katherine Crowe and Dean McKay declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Animal Rights

No animal studies were carried out by the authors for this article.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyFordham UniversityBronxUSA

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