What You See is What You Do: Imagery and the Moral Judgements of Individuals with OCD

Alexia Trafford

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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A key feature of OCD is the occurrence of compulsions that are viewed to ‘prevent some objectively unlikely event, often involving harm’ (ICD 10, F42). In improving our understanding of these compulsions, researchers have begun to explore the moral judgements of individuals with OCD. It has been proposed that these individuals make moral judgements using more deontological, rather than utilitarian, principles (Franklin, McNally & Riemann, 2009; Mancini & Gangemi, 2015). That is, in moral dilemmas, individuals with OCD tend to make judgements based on the morality of actions involved as opposed to the outcome for the greater good. Furthermore, visualising an image has been linked to making deontological judgements, in non-clinical populations (Amit & Greene, 2012). This study investigated moral judgements in OCD and the impact of imagery on these judgements. It was hypothesised that imagery would mediate the association between OCD and moral judgements. One hundred and forty-five participants (including 30 with OCD and 27 in a non-OCD comparison group) were recruited online and completed questions on moral dilemmas that required them to choose between deontological and utilitarian options. The utilitarian option required them to choose to act, causing the deaths of fewer people but saving the lives of many. The deontological option did not involve acting, but resulted in more deaths. A greater presence of OCD symptomatology was associated with making more deontological judgements, when considering some dilemmas. However, when compared by group, individuals with OCD did not make significantly more deontological judgements than individuals in the comparison group. Whilst imagery was found to have a relationship with moral judgements in certain dilemmas, this did not mediate the relationship between OCD and moral judgements. The results suggest an association between moral reasoning and OCD, not mediated by imagery, and are therefore considered in relation to other theoretical explanations.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Wroe, Abigail, Supervisor
  • Luzon, Olga, Supervisor
Award date1 Nov 2016
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016

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