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Paranoia, sensitization and social inference: findings from two large-scale, multi-round behavioural experiments

Barnby, JM; Deeley, Q; Robinson, O; Raihani, N; Bell, V; Mehta, MA; (2020) Paranoia, sensitization and social inference: findings from two large-scale, multi-round behavioural experiments. Royal Society Open Science , 7 (3) , Article 191525. 10.1098/rsos.191525. Green open access

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Abstract

The sensitization model suggests that paranoia is explained by over-sensitivity to social threat. However, this has been difficult to test experimentally. We report two preregistered social interaction studies that tested (i) whether paranoia predicted overall attribution and peak attribution of harmful intent and (ii) whether anxiety, interpersonal sensitivity and worry predicted the attribution of harmful intent. In Study 1, we recruited a large general population sample (N = 987) who serially interacted with other participants in multi-round dictator games and matched to fair, partially fair or unfair partners. Participants rated attributions of harmful intent and self-interest after each interaction. In Study 2 (N = 1011), a new sample of participants completed the same procedure and additionally completed measures of anxiety, worry and interpersonal sensitivity. As predicted, prior paranoid ideation was associated with higher and faster overall harmful intent attributions, whereas attributions of self-interest were unaffected, supporting the sensitization model. Contrary to predictions, neither worry, interpersonal sensitivity nor anxiety was associated with harmful intent attributions. In a third exploratory internal meta-analysis, we combined datasets to examine the effect of paranoia on trial-by-trial attributional changes when playing fair and unfair dictators. Paranoia was associated with a greater reduction in harmful intent attributions when playing a fair but not unfair dictator, suggesting that paranoia may also exaggerate the volatility of beliefs about the harmful intent of others.

Type: Article
Title: Paranoia, sensitization and social inference: findings from two large-scale, multi-round behavioural experiments
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1098/rsos.191525
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.191525
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 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, social inference, psychosis, interpersonal sensitivity, PERSECUTORY DELUSIONS, VIRTUAL-REALITY, WORRY, PSYCHOSIS, ANXIETY, DOPAMINE, STRESS, ENVIRONMENT, PSYCHOLOGY, EXPERIENCE
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
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10094778
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