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A large sample of non-clinical subjects were screened and those who reported experiencing relatively frequent intrusive thoughts with associated neutralizing were selected. These subjects were randomly allocated to one of two conditions: both groups listened to repeated recorded presentations of one of their intrusive thoughts and were then required either to (a) neutralize it, or (b) distract themselves for a similar period. Ratings of discomfort were taken during this procedure (first phase), and during identical presentations of the same thought without neutralizing or distracting (second phase). Results showed that the group who neutralized during the first phase experienced significantly more discomfort during the second phase and significantly stronger urges to neutralize and distract. There was also evidence that engaging in neutralizing responses during the first phase made it difficult to stop neutralizing during the second phase. The results are considered in the context of the cognitive-behavioural hypothesis that obsessional disorders develop as a consequence of neutralizing normal intrusive thoughts.


Journal article


Behav Res Ther

Publication Date





211 - 219


Adolescent, Adult, Arousal, Attention, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Defense Mechanisms, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Thinking, Treatment Outcome