The current study investigates the relationship between obsessive-compulsive symptomatology, checking behaviors, and metamemory. OCD is characterized by the presence of intrusive thoughts and/or images, recognized as obsessions, along with increased anxiety and repetitive or ritualistic behaviors, known as compulsions. A common type of compulsive behavior is referred to as checking. One example of this kind of behavior is when people check to confirm that they have properly shut off stove burners. Van den Hout and Kindt (2003) developed a virtual stove-checking task in order to simulate the experience of OCD individuals who perform checking behaviors. The current study used a similar program as used in previous research that simulated the experience of manipulating specific stove-burners and completing either one check or no check following each trial. This study included variables of memory accuracy (remembering which burners were manipulated), metamemory (level of confidence in memory for the burners), state anxiety, perceived responsibility, and outcome confidence. In addition to these variables, each participant completed an obsessive-compulsive inventory (OCI) to determine the level of OCD symptomatology that they typically experience. The original hypotheses were: 1) individuals who report experiencing higher levels of OCD symptomatology would also report higher levels of state anxiety and perceived responsibility and 2) high levels of state anxiety and perceived responsibility in individuals experiencing OCD symptoms more frequently would be accompanied by a greater decrease in metamemory across trials.
Data from 152 participants (64 male, 86 female, 2 other) were collected, with each participant being randomly assigned to either the one-check or no-check condition. Following data collection, participants were split into high and low OCD groups based on their responses to the OCI scale. While the original hypotheses were not supported, other findings revealed a general decrease in memory accuracy across trials, with those in the one-check group generally performing better than those in the no-check group. Additionally, a general decrease in metamemory across trials for all groups was observed. Interestingly, the data also revealed a higher average report of perceived responsibility in the low OCI group, as opposed to the high OCI group, directly contradicting the original hypothesis. However, among check groups, the one-check group reported slightly higher levels of perceived responsibility overall, which was found to be marginally significant. Additionally, various significant correlations were found that may be further explored in future studies.