Building upon semantic network models, it is proposed that individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) process ambiguous words (e.g., homographs such as cancer) preferably in the context of the OC meaning (i.e., illness) and connect them to a lesser degree to other (neutral) cognitions (e.g., animal). To investigate this assumption, a new task was designed requiring participants to generate up to five associations for different cue words. Cue words were either emotionally neutral, negative or OC-relevant. Two thirds of the items were homographs, while the rest was unambiguous. Twenty-five OCD and 21 healthy participants were recruited via internet. Analyses reveal that OCD participants produced significantly more negative and OC-relevant associations than controls, supporting the assumption of biased associative networks in OCD. The findings support the use of psychological interventions such as Association Splitting that aim at restructuring associative networks in OCD by broadening the semantic scope of OC cognitions.
- Interpretation bias
- Semantic network