A large body of literature suggests that some symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) result from mnemonic dysfunctions. The present study tested various formulations of the memory deficit hypothesis considering important moderators, such as depression and response slowing. Thirty-two OCD patients and 32 healthy controls were presented verbal or nonverbal instructions for actions (e.g. simple gestures). These actions should either be performed or imagined. For recognition, previously presented as well as novel actions were displayed. Decisions had to be made whether an action was previously displayed (verbally vs. nonverbally) or not and whether an action was performed or imagined (internal source memory). Moreover, both judgments required confidence ratings. Groups did not differ in memory accuracy and metamemory for verbally presented material. Patients displayed some impairment for nonverbally presented material and imagined instructions, which, however, could be fully accounted for by response slowing and depressive symptoms. The study challenges the view that primary memory deficits underlie OCD or any of its subtypes. We claim that research should move forward from the mere study of objective impairment to the assessment of cognitive performance in conjunction with personality traits such as inflated responsibility.
- Action memory
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Reality monitoring
- Source memory