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An Experimental Study of Mental Contamination: The Role of Disgust, Shame and Guilt.

Piper, Rebecca. (2013) An Experimental Study of Mental Contamination: The Role of Disgust, Shame and Guilt. Doctoral thesis, University of Surrey (United Kingdom)..

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Mental contamination is an internal feeling of dirtiness that occurs in the absence of contact with a perceived contaminant and can arise following intrusive and repugnant thoughts, images or memories. It is often associated with unpleasant emotional responses and an urge to neutralise such feelings. Various sources of mental contamination have begun to be explored including imagined physical dirt and immoral or violating acts. Relatively little is known about what makes someone vulnerable to feeling internally contaminated. This study aimed firstly, to ascertain whether mental contamination could be induced in participants following recall of real life unpleasant memories. Second, to explore the relationship between mental contamination and obsessive-compulsiveness. And third, to investigate if sensitivity to disgust, guilt and shame are related to the experience of mental contamination. Participants from a non-clinical sample (n = 180) completed baseline measures of disgust propensity and sensitivity, guilt and shame proneness, and obsessive compulsiveness. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups and asked to recall a memory of either a time when they came into contact with something physically contaminating (mental physical group; n = 99), or a time when they did something immoral (mental moral group; n = 81). Indices of mental contamination (e.g. dirtiness, disgust, anxiety and shame) were assessed before and after recalling the memory. The findings showed that feelings of mental contamination could be induced following recall of an unpleasant memory. Obsessive compulsiveness was significantly associated with increased feelings of shame (r = .153) and urge to wash (r = .181) following recall. Disgust propensity (R2 = .074), shame and guilt proneness (R2 = .110) significantly predicted feelings of mental contamination in the mental physical group but not the mental moral group. Although effect sizes were relatively small, this study adds to mounting evidence that mental contamination is a powerful and unpleasant experience. The assessment of contamination fears should include an exploration of mental contamination. Clinical implications and suggestions for further research are discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Divisions : Theses
Authors : Piper, Rebecca.
Date : 2013
Additional Information : Thesis (Psych.D.)--University of Surrey (United Kingdom), 2013.
Depositing User : EPrints Services
Date Deposited : 06 May 2020 14:23
Last Modified : 06 May 2020 14:33

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