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Does the modification of personal responsibility moderate the mental contamination effect?

Kennedy, Tinisha S. (2016) Does the modification of personal responsibility moderate the mental contamination effect? Doctoral thesis, University of Surrey.

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Objectives: Mental contamination is the psychological sense of dirtiness that arises in the absence of physical contact with a perceived contaminant. Research suggests mental contamination can be evoked through recalling or imagining perpetrating a moral transgression. This study experimentally evoked mental contamination by asking men to imagine perpetrating a moral transgression. It explored whether reducing one's sense of personal responsibility for the transgression moderated the mental contamination effect. Method: Male students (N=60) imagined perpetrating either a consensual or non-consensual kiss. Personal responsibility for the act was manipulated in one of two non-consensual kiss conditions through the provision of social influence information. Feelings of mental contamination were assessed by self-report and through a behavioural index (choice of a free gift) of mental contamination. Results: Mental contamination was successfully induced in the two non-consensual kiss conditions. Results provide some evidence to support the hypothesis that reducing personal responsibility would moderate the mental contamination effect in imagined perpetrators of a forced non-consensual kiss. However, findings suggest that there was no significant difference between non-consensual conditions when mental contamination was assessed behaviourally through choice of free gift. Overall, more men who imagined perpetrating a moral transgression (irrespective of personal responsibility), chose a cleanse based free gift compared to men who imagined having a consensual kiss. Conclusion: It is possible to experimentally induce mental contamination in a non-clinical sample. The study shows some evidence that personal responsibility may moderate the mental contamination effect. Implications for research, theory and practice are discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects : Thesis
Divisions : Theses
Authors :
Kennedy, Tinisha S.
Date : 30 September 2016
Funders : Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences
Contributors :
ContributionNameEmailORCID, L.M.
Uncontrolled Keywords : Mental contamination; Perpetrators; Morality; Responsibility.
Depositing User : Tinisha Kennedy
Date Deposited : 27 Oct 2016 10:23
Last Modified : 07 Feb 2017 10:52

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