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Title: Does the modification of personal responsibility moderate the mental contamination effect?
Author: Kennedy, Tinisha S.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5991 9310
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2016
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Objectives: Mental contamination is the psychological sense of dirtiness that arises in the absence of physical contact with a perceived contaminant. Research suggests mental contamination can be evoked through recalling or imagining perpetrating a moral transgression. This study experimentally evoked mental contamination by asking men to imagine perpetrating a moral transgression. It explored whether reducing one's sense of personal responsibility for the transgression moderated the mental contamination effect. Method: Male students (N=60) imagined perpetrating either a consensual or non-consensual kiss. Personal responsibility for the act was manipulated in one of two non-consensual kiss conditions through the provision of social influence information. Feelings of mental contamination were assessed by self-report and through a behavioural index (choice of a free gift) of mental contamination. Results: Mental contamination was successfully induced in the two non-consensual kiss conditions. Results provide some evidence to support the hypothesis that reducing personal responsibility would moderate the mental contamination effect in imagined perpetrators of a forced non-consensual kiss. However, findings suggest that there was no significant difference between non-consensual conditions when mental contamination was assessed behaviourally through choice of free gift. Overall, more men who imagined perpetrating a moral transgression (irrespective of personal responsibility), chose a cleanse based free gift compared to men who imagined having a consensual kiss. Conclusion: It is possible to experimentally induce mental contamination in a non-clinical sample. The study shows some evidence that personal responsibility may moderate the mental contamination effect. Implications for research, theory and practice are discussed.
Supervisor: Simonds, L. M. Sponsor: Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Psych.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available