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Does modifying personal responsibility moderate the mental contamination effect?

Kennedy, TS and Simonds, Laura (2017) Does modifying personal responsibility moderate the mental contamination effect? Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry.

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Abstract

Background and objectives Mental contamination is the psychological sense of internal dirtiness that arises in the absence of physical contact with a perceived contaminant. Mental contamination can be evoked through imagining perpetrating a moral transgression. This study experimentally evoked mental contamination by asking men to imagine perpetrating a non-consensual kiss. It explored whether reducing sense of personal responsibility for the kiss moderated the mental contamination effect. Methods Male students (N = 60) imagined giving either a consensual or non-consensual kiss. Personal responsibility for the kiss was manipulated in one of two non-consensual kiss conditions by way of the inclusion of social influence information. Feelings of mental contamination were assessed by self-report and through a behavioural index. Results Mental contamination was successfully induced in the two non-consensual kiss conditions. There was evidence to support the hypothesis that reducing personal responsibility might moderate specific components of mental contamination (shame, dirtiness and urge to cleanse). The effect of responsibility modification was evident in the self-report measures, but not in the behavioural index. Limitations The sample comprised male university students which limits generalizability of the findings. The behavioural assessment of mental contamination was limited to a proxy measure. Conclusions Imagined moral violations are associated with increases in indices of mental contamination. Further research should investigate whether feelings of shame, dirtiness and urge to cleanse are particularly responsive to responsibility modifications.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences > School of Psychology
Authors :
NameEmailORCID
Kennedy, TSUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Simonds, LauraL.Simonds@surrey.ac.ukUNSPECIFIED
Date : 24 June 2017
Identification Number : https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbtep.2017.06.004
Copyright Disclaimer : © 2017. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
Uncontrolled Keywords : Mental contamination; Perpetrators; Morality; Responsibility
Depositing User : Melanie Hughes
Date Deposited : 27 Jun 2017 15:54
Last Modified : 27 Jun 2017 15:54
URI: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/id/eprint/841497

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