Etiology of Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior

  • Paul M. G. Emmelkamp
Part of the The Plenum Behavior Therapy Series book series (PBTS)


Numerous studies have been conducted within a learning theory framework that are more or less relevant with respect to the etiology and persistence of obsessive-compulsive behavior. These could be discussed at length (e.g., Teasdale, 1974), but the discussion here must necessarily be brief. Generally, the two-stage theory of Mowrer (1960) plays a prominent role in the behavioral formulations in accounting for the development and the maintenance of obsessive-compulsive behavior. As was discussed in the section on the etiology of phobias (see Chapter 2), Mowrer held two learning paradigms responsible for fear acquisition: classical and operant conditioning. In Mowrer’s view classically conditioned fear motivates avoidance behavior, which leads to a reduction of fear and a strengthening of the avoidance behavior. Most of the research supporting Mowrer’s view comes from the animal laboratory.


Passive Avoidance Classical Conditioning Displacement Activity Psychoanalytic Theory Repertory Grid 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul M. G. Emmelkamp

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