Mixed findings have been obtained in prior research with respect to the presence and severity of memory and metamemory deficits in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). We tested the hypothesis that experimentally induced increments of subjective responsibility would lead to a disproportionately strong decline of memory confidence and enhanced response latencies in OCD while leaving memory accuracy unaffected. Twenty-eight OCD patients and 28 healthy controls were presented a computerized memory test framed with two different scenarios. In the neutral scenario, the participant was requested to imagine purchasing 15 items from a do-it-yourself store. In the recognition phase, the 15 needed items were presented along with 15 distractor items. The participant was asked to decide whether items were on his or her shopping list or not, graded by subjective confidence. In the responsibility scenario, the general experimental setup was analogous except that the participant now had to envision that he or she was a helper in a region recently struck by an earthquake, dispatched to provide 15 urgently needed goods from a nearby town. In line with prior work by our group, samples did not differ in either condition on memory accuracy in a subsequent recognition task. As hypothesized, OCD participants were less certain in their responses for the high responsibility condition than controls. Whereas patients and controls did not differ in their subjective estimates for memorized items, patients expressed stronger doubt that their earthquake mission was successful. The findings indicate that low memory confidence in OCD may only be elicited in situations where perceived responsibility is high and that patients may share higher performance standards ("good is not good enough") than controls when perceived responsibility is inflated.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder