The Voodoo Doll Self-Injury Task: A new measure of sub-clinical self-harm tendencies

David S. Chester, Zachary T. Whitt, Tchiki S. Davis, C. Nathan Dewall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


We introduce a new measure of sub-clinical self-harm tendencies, the Voodoo Doll Self-Injury Task (VDSIT). In this computer task, participants virtually stick a number of sharp pins in a doll that represents themselves. Across five community and undergraduate samples who were not recruited based on their self-harm history or risk (total N = 1,289), VDSIT scores were higher among participants with histories of actual self-injury and were positively correlated with state and trait level motivations to self-harm. VDSIT scores did not correspond to tendencies to harm others, showed sensitivity to experimental manipulations that increase self-harm tendencies, and were positively correlated with established risk factors for self-harm (e.g., depression). The VDSIT did not, on average, elicit significant distress from participants during or after the task, even among participants who had previously engaged in self-harm. Whereas the clinical utility of this measure remains unexamined, these findings provide initial support for the VDSIT's subclinical validity, which can help researchers accurately, economically, and rapidly measure state and trait level self-harm tendencies using both correlational and experimental designs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)554-579
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Social and Clinical Psychology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Sep 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Guilford Publications, Inc.


  • Measurement
  • Non-suicidal self-injury
  • Self-harm
  • Voodoo doll self-injury task

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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