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J Anxiety Disord. 2017 Apr;47:75-82. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2016.12.005. Epub 2016 Dec 28.

Inverse reasoning processes in obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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School of Psychology, The University of New South Wales, Kensington, NSW, 2052, Australia. Electronic address:
School of Psychology, The University of New South Wales, Kensington, NSW, 2052, Australia.


The inference-based approach (IBA) is one cognitive model that aims to explain the aetiology and maintenance of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The model proposes that certain reasoning processes lead an individual with OCD to confuse an imagined possibility with an actual probability, a state termed inferential confusion. One such reasoning process is inverse reasoning, in which hypothetical causes form the basis of conclusions about reality. Although previous research has found associations between a self-report measure of inferential confusion and OCD symptoms, evidence of a specific association between inverse reasoning and OCD symptoms is lacking. In the present study, we developed a task-based measure of inverse reasoning in order to investigate whether performance on this task is associated with OCD symptoms in an online sample. The results provide some evidence for the IBA assertion: greater endorsement of inverse reasoning was significantly associated with OCD symptoms, even when controlling for general distress and OCD-related beliefs. Future research is needed to replicate this result in a clinical sample and to investigate a potential causal role for inverse reasoning in OCD.


Inference-based approach; Inferential confusion; Inverse reasoning; Obsessive-compulsive disorder

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