Faculty Articles


Scrupulosity and implicit and explicit beliefs about God

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Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders






Dual-system models of cognition propose that the interplay between analytic and associative cognition determines emotions and behaviors. Scrupulosity, an OCD presentation dominated by religious or moral fears, involves fears that God is unreasonable and punitive, and previous research suggests that individuals with scrupulosity hold more negative concepts of God. The current research assessed if implicit associative aspects of these beliefs are relevant, both to bypass social desirability and to explore the role of non-conscious cognition. Participants were drawn from the Harvard Medical School Study on Judaism and Mental Health and completed an explicit assessment of beliefs about God, a related implicit association task (GNAT), and the Penn Inventory of Scrupulosity. Results indicated that explicit and implicit beliefs did not correlate, and that they both independently correlated with scrupulosity. Regression analyses indicated that only those with high explicit negative beliefs and relatively negative implicit associations reported elevated levels of scrupulosity. Beliefs about God, like other cognitive processes, appear to include both automatic and deliberate components that can be discordant, and symptoms of scrupulosity may require both explicit and implicit negative evaluations. Further research exploring the relevance of dual process models to scrupulosity, OCD, and affective disorders generally, appears warranted and necessary.



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