Social cognition and subclinical paranoid ideation


Requests for reprints should be addressed to Prof David L. Penn, Department of Psychology, UNC at Chapel Hill, 3270 Davie Hall, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3270, USA (email: DPenn@email.unc.ed).


Objective. A number of cognitive biases have been identified relevant to persecutory thought (e.g. exaggerated self-serving bias). Moreover, findings of increased depressed mood in conjunction with high levels of self-esteem have contributed to theories of persecutory ideation (e.g. Bentall, Kinderman, Kaney, 1994). Using a nonclinical sample, the present study sought to expand upon previous research by examining the linear relationship between persecutory ideation and multiple clinical and social cognitive variables.

Design. A cross-sectional design was used. Correlational and multiple regression analyses were conducted.

Method. One hundred and ninety-three undergraduate students were administered a battery of questionnaires which assessed the following domains: Paranoid ideation, depression, social anxiety, self-monitoring, attributional style and self-esteem.

Results. Higher levels of paranoid ideation were significantly associated with greater depressed mood, social anxiety and avoidance, evaluation apprehension, self-monitoring and lower self-esteem. There were no significant associations between paranoid ideation and attributional biases.

Conclusions. These findings suggest that mood, anxiety and perceptions of the self are related to paranoid ideation in a nonclinical sample. These findings are tempered, however, by studying a nonclinical sample and the self-report measures of paranoid ideation that might be assessing multiple aspects of paranoid thought (e.g. ideas of reference).