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Behav Res Ther. 2007 Aug;45(8):1823-33. Epub 2007 Feb 22.

Does magical thinking produce neutralising behaviour? An experimental investigation.

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University of Southampton, UK.


Magical thinking is of relevance to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and has been most widely investigated in relation to the cognitive bias known as thought-action fusion (TAF). This is seen as playing a role in the formation of fears about responsibility for harm. We suggest that magical thinking may also characterise some types of neutralising behaviour, which arise in response to those fears, and are a hallmark of the disorder. In an experimental study of 51 undergraduate students, we assessed whether the use of neutralising behaviours in response to an induction of fears of increasing likelihood for harm is related to a propensity for magical thinking. The 75.5% of participants demonstrated at least one form of neutralising behaviour in response to a TAF-induction task. Neutralising was associated with stronger and more persistent responses to the task, and with questionnaire measures of magical ideation. Those who neutralised did not report higher levels of OCD symptoms. It appears that neutralising is a common response in circumstances that provoke a sense of responsibility for harm. Its occurrence may be linked to magical thinking, however, the results from this experimental investigation suggested that this process may not be specific to OCD.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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