Oversensitivity and overgeneralization of the error withdrawal response in different obsessive-compulsive traits

  • Eldad Yitzhak Hochman
  • Liron Tal


Avoidance responses to exogenous threat source have global effect over motor output. For example, an external signal indicating a need to stop a key-press outright freezes all bodily movements. Recent model suggests that errors represent an endogenous threat source. We recently proposed that the rapid release of erroneous key presses reflects an active avoidance behavior we coined the error withdrawal response (EWR). Here we tested whether EWR involves withdrawing all motor output or the error response alone. We assessed two groups, each scoring high on a different symptom dimension of obsessive-compulsive disorder. We used a task designed to induce errors in which only a subset of an ongoing two-finger response is inappropriate. Compulsive checkers, known to be over concerned about own errors, exhibited increased EWR, highly selective to the incorrect subset. In contrast, high threat assessors known to overgeneralize threats exhibited moderate EWR, globally affecting both incorrect and correct subsets. We conclude that EWR is highly selective and can be used to dissociate obsessive-compulsive traits.


Error detection Defensive responses Obsessive-compulsive disorder Threat Cognitive control 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Both authors declare they have no conflict 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 this study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology and EducationThe Open University of IsraelRa’ananaIsrael
  2. 2.Hevel Eilot Psychology ServiceD.N. Hevel EilotIsrael

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