An investigation of memory deficits and executive function in adults reporting high checking behaviours

  • Lorna Elise Palmer

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Cognitive-behavioural models have been proposed to explain the development and maintenance of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and checking symptoms. Previous research has examined models relating to cognitive dysfunction, including the memory deficits and executive impairments. Evidence to support these models is inconclusive. Researchers suggest that it may be more fruitful to examine memory and executive function as involving several independent processes rather than treating them as unitary processes. It has also been suggested that memory impairments may be secondary to executive dysfunction. Reported work examining this relationship is limited. Studies investigating checking behaviours have highlighted the role of belief and appraisal models. In particular, memory confidence and perceived responsibility has been examined. The relative contribution of these variables, when examining memory deficits and executive dysfunction, is uncertain. This work programme had the objective of examining the relative contribution of different cognitive-behavioural models to checking symptoms across four different studies. Prospective memory deficits and familiarity biases were found to be related to checking symptom severity. These findings suggest that, when examining memory deficits, independent memory processes should be considered. Inhibitory function was shown to consistently predict checking symptom severity, suggesting that executive dysfunction is related to a specific dimension of cognitive regulation. Inhibitory impairments were not shown to be solely related to the presence of OCD symptoms, with similar inhibition deficits in an OCD and anxiety group. Additionally, inhibition was demonstrated to independently contribute to compulsive but not obsessive symptoms, when anxiety was taken into account. These findings highlighted the role of anxiety and inhibition in relation to compulsive symptoms. Correlation and mediation analyses across this work demonstrated that there is no relationship between memory impairments and inhibition. It was concluded that both memory deficits and inhibition independently contribute to the checking symptom profile. When memory confidence and perceived responsibility were examined in the same model as memory and inhibition, only perceived responsibility was found to be an independent predictor of checking symptom severity. The results from each of the four studies reported here have potential implications for future research examining cognitive-behavioural models of checking. It is suggested that an integrated model of checking may be useful in helping to develop a better understanding of the onset and maintenance of the disorder.
Date of Award23 Feb 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsESRC (Economic and Social Research Council)

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