Category: Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders

Symposium

Beyond Utilitarianism and Deontology: Moral Intuitions, Emotions, and Reasons in Scrupulosity

Friday, November 17
1:45 PM - 3:15 PM
Location: Sapphire Ballroom I & J, Level 4, Sapphire Level

Keywords: OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) | Spirituality and Religion | Cross Cultural / Cultural Differences
Presentation Type: Symposium

Scrupulosity involves obsessional fears and doubts with religious or moral themes that provoke anxiety, guilt, and shame, leading to ritualistic acts. Although guilt and shame are frequently mentioned in accounts of scrupulosity, they are rarely assessed empirically. Similarly, the cognitive processes that lead to the evaluation of a particular act as immoral are rarely studied, and when they are, they are often addressed indirectly using classical philosophical paradigms of moral reasoning. Such paradigms have recently been interpreted utilizing contemporary theories of moral judgment that highlight the dual roles of rapid emotional-intuitive responses and slower, more deliberative cognitive evaluation in making moral attributions.  The current study employs this approach to examine the ways that scrupulosity is influenced by anticipated guilt and shame, the ability to think flexibly about moral questions, and beliefs about the value of emotions, rules, and rational deliberation in matters of morality. A community sample of 196 adults completed the Penn Inventory of Scrupulosity (PIOS) and measures of guilt/shame proneness, beliefs about moral judgments, and cognitive flexibility. Multiple regression and correlational analyses indicated that PIOS scores were positively related to anticipated guilt and shame, as well as beliefs about the importance of emotions and rules in guiding moral judgments (βs = .17 – .24, ps < .05). Also, PIOS scores were negatively related to beliefs about the value of rational deliberation in moral matters and to general cognitive flexibility (rs = -.19 and -.33, respectively, ps < .05).  These data suggest that, although scrupulous obsessions and rituals frequently relate to religious or moral rules, they are strongly influenced by negative beliefs about rational deliberation about moral questions, and positive beliefs about strong emotional and intuitive responses to moral questions. Furthermore, these emotional and intuitive responses may result primarily from cultural conditioning, rather than from consciously held beliefs. Implications for clinical research and for the treatment of scrupulosity using cognitive-behavioral therapy are discussed.

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