Check, check, double check: Investigating memory deterioration within multiple sessions of repeated checking

Marieke B.J. Toffolo*, Marcel A. van den Hout, Adam S. Radomsky, Iris M. Engelhard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background and objectives Extensive research has shown that repeated checking causes memory distrust. Therefore, it has been suggested that people may subsequently get into a vicious cycle of decreased memory confidence and increased checking behavior, which may play a role in the maintenance and development of OCD. This study investigated in two experiments how repeated checking influences memory distrust over multiple checking episodes. Methods In experiment 1, 70 healthy undergraduates performed two sessions of a virtual checking task with a 30 min break in between. In experiment 2, 41 healthy undergraduates performed two sessions of the checking task on a real kitchen stove and sink. Results Results of experiment 1 showed that memory confidence for checking the stove decreased after repeated checking in session 1, and remained low in session 2, but memory vividness and detail decreased in both sessions and recovered in between. In experiment 2, all three meta-memory ratings for checking the stove decreased after repeated checking in both sessions, but recovered in between. Limitations Future research may include patients with OCD. To further investigate the development of memory distrust over time, more checking episodes may be included and the time between sessions may be increased. Although replication is needed, the findings of experiment 2 seem more informative. Conclusions Repeated checking may decrease memory vividness and detail (and, in turn, presumably also decrease memory confidence) each time this counterproductive strategy is used, which may have implications for using this paradigm as a behavioral experiment in cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-67
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes



  • Checking
  • Cognitive confidence
  • Cognitive-behavior therapy
  • Memory confidence
  • OCD
  • Repetition

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