Stop checking: Repeated checking and its effects on response inhibition and doubt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Repeated checking is a common ritual in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). van den Hout and Kindt (2003b) devised a task demonstrating paradoxical reductions in memory confidence following repeated checking. This effect was later found to be contingent upon response inhibition. The current study aims to (1) test an alternative interpretation, whereby repeated-checking effects are caused by viewing multiple exemplars, and (2) test whether repeated checking affects response inhibition. Method 132 students participated in two experiments (66 in Experiment 1 and 66 in Experiment 2). Participants were randomly allocated to a repeated-checking task or a simple-action task that featured similar multiple exemplars without the need for checking. Both tasks were followed by a stop-signal task, measuring response inhibition. Experiment 1 featured a stop-signal task with neutral go-signals while Experiment 2 incorporated familiar and unfamiliar stimuli from the previous task as go-signals. Results In both experiments, the repeated-checking group exhibited reduced memory confidence compared to the simple-action group. Groups did not differ in their response inhibition for neutral stimuli (Experiment 1), while familiar go-signals had a detrimental effect on response inhibition (Experiment 2). Limitations Our results examine the association between checking and response inhibition in healthy participants without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia. Replication with clinical samples awaits future studies. Conclusions Repeated checking impairs memory confidence. Increased familiarity of stimuli shortens the time it takes to respond to them while it impairs inhibition response to them. These effects possibly provide initial evidence for the hypothesized role of response inhibition in the maintenance of OCD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-91
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2016


  • Doubt
  • Familiarity
  • Inhibition
  • OCD
  • Repeated checking
  • Stop signal

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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