Bocci, Laura and Gordon, P. Kenneth
Does magical thinking produce neutralising behaviour? an experimental investigation
Behaviour Research and Therapy, 45, (8), . (doi:10.1016/j.brat.2007.02.003).
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 speci?c to OCD.
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