Preliminary Evidence of Biased Attentional Mechanisms and Reward Processing in Adults with Obsessive-compulsive Disorder

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obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention, reward

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Individuals with obsessive-compulsive-disorder (OCD) may have difficulties in using feedback from rewarding and punishing experiences to optimally guide future decisions. The current aim was to examine how adults with OCD use associative learning feedback to direct attention toward learned stimuli when the action-outcome contingency for those stimuli has changed. Participants first learned to select high-probability (over low-probability) rewarding stimuli and low-probability (over high-probability) loss stimuli. Participants then saw these stimuli as the second of two targets in a task where available attentional resources were limited. Recognition of learned stimuli during limited attention was driven by previously learned stimulus-response associations instead of an attentional benefit toward the most favorable action-outcome associations (reward-associated stimuli), as demonstrated in prior research with non-OCD adults. The current evidence supports the hypothesis that individuals with OCD have difficulties shifting from learned stimulus-response associations when the response-outcome contingencies change.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, v. 83, issue 2, p. 128-151