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Dysfunction by Disclosure? Stereotype Threat as a Source of Secondary Neurocognitive Malperformance in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

  • Steffen Moritz (a1), Karla Spirandelli (a1), Insa Happach (a1), Despina Lion (a1) and Fabrice Berna (a1)...


Objectives: There is mixed evidence regarding whether patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) display substantial neurocognitive deficits. Several studies implicate poor motivation, comorbid disorders, or distraction due to obsessive thoughts as potential causes of secondary malperformance. The present study examined the impact of stereotype threat (i.e., confrontation with a negative stereotype may impair performance) on neuropsychological functioning in individuals with OCD. We hypothesized that a stereotype threat cue emphasizing neurocognitive deficits in OCD (as is often conveyed in disclosure and consent documents that inform patients about the purpose of a study) would compromise patients’ test performance relative to a control group who did not receive such cue. Methods: Fifty participants with either a verified or a likely diagnosis of OCD were recruited online and randomly assigned to either an experimental condition aimed to elicit stereotype threat or a control condition. Both groups underwent (objective) memory and attention (Go/NoGo task) assessments and completed questionnaires capturing psychopathology, cognitive complaints, and self-stigma. Results: As hypothesized, patients in the stereotype threat condition performed worse on the Go/NoGo task. Groups did not differ on any other measures. Conclusions: Stereotype threat negatively impacted neuropsychological performance on an attention task. The threat cue was perhaps too weak or the stereotype threat was already internalized by the patients and “saturated” at baseline so that no effect emerged on the other measures. Implications for clinical trials are discussed. (JINS, 2018, 24, 584–592)

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Corresponding author

Correspondence and reprint requests to: Steffen Moritz, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Martinistr. 52, 20246, Hamburg, Germany. E-mail:


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Dysfunction by Disclosure? Stereotype Threat as a Source of Secondary Neurocognitive Malperformance in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

  • Steffen Moritz (a1), Karla Spirandelli (a1), Insa Happach (a1), Despina Lion (a1) and Fabrice Berna (a1)...


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