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Paranoia and conspiracy: group cohesion increases harmful intent attribution in the Trust Game

Greenburgh, A; Bell, V; Raihani, N; (2019) Paranoia and conspiracy: group cohesion increases harmful intent attribution in the Trust Game. PeerJ , 7 , Article e7403. 10.7717/peerj.7403. Green open access

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Abstract

Current theories argue that hyper-sensitisation of social threat perception is central to paranoia. Affected people often also report misperceptions of group cohesion (conspiracy) but little is known about the cognitive mechanisms underpinning this conspiracy thinking in live interactions. In a pre-registered experimental study, we used a large-scale game theory approach (N > 1,000) to test whether the social cohesion of an opposing group affects paranoid attributions in a mixed online and lab-based sample. Participants spanning the full population distribution of paranoia played as proposers in a modified Trust Game: they were allocated a bonus and chose how much money to send to a pair of responders which was quadrupled before reaching these responders. Responders decided how much to return to the proposers through the same process. Participants played in one of two conditions: against a cohesive group who communicated and arrived at a joint decision, or a non-cohesive group who made independent decisions. After the exchange, proposers rated the extent to which the responders’ decisions were driven by (i) self-interest and (ii) intent to harm. Although the true motives are ambiguous, cohesive responders were reliably rated by participants as being more strongly motivated by intent to harm, indicating that group cohesion affects social threat perception. Highly paranoid participants attributed harmful intent more strongly overall but were equally reactive to social cohesion as other participants. This suggests that paranoia involves a generally lowered threshold for social threat detection but with an intact sensitivity for cohesion-related group characteristics.

Type: Article
Title: Paranoia and conspiracy: group cohesion increases harmful intent attribution in the Trust Game
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.7717/peerj.7403
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.7403
Language: English
Additional information: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Keywords: Science & Technology, Multidisciplinary Sciences, Science & Technology - Other Topics, Paranoia, Group cohesion, Conspiracy, Trust game, PERSECUTORY DELUSIONS, GROUP ENTITATIVITY, PERCEPTION, THREAT, PSYCHOLOGY
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10083591
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