The Role of Responsibility and Fear of Guilt in Hypothesis-Testing
Recent theories argue that both perceived responsibility and fear of guilt increase obsessive-like behaviours. We propose that hypothesis-testing might account for this effect. Both perceived responsibility and fear of guilt, would influence subjects’ hypothesis-testing, by inducing a prudential style.
This style implies focusing on and confirming the worst hypothesis, and reiterating the testing process. In our experiment, we manipulated the responsibility and fear of guilt of 236 normal volunteers who executed a deductive task. The results show that perceived responsibility is the main factor that influenced individuals’ hypothesis-testing. Fear of guilt has however a significant additive effect. Guilt-fearing participants preferred to carry on with the diagnostic process, even when faced with initial favorable evidence, whereas participants in the responsibility condition only did so when confronted with an unfavorable evidence.Implications for the understanding of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are discussed.