Increased Social Cognitive Bias in Subclinical Paranoia
Background: Recent analyses from the SCOPE study have revealed significant relationships between measures of social cognitive biases and specific symptoms, such as paranoia, in individuals with schizophrenia (Buck et al, 2016; Pinkham et al. 2016). Although prior research in subclinical populations report that those with high levels of paranoia exhibit deficits in social cognition and social functioning (Combs & Penn 2004, Combs et al 2013), we seek to expand this literature by examining the relationship between paranoia, social cognitive biases, and social functioning to determine whether the same symptom-specific deficits can be seen in a nonclinical population. Methods: Utilizing measures of social cognition identified by a RAND panel in Pinkham et al (2014), undergraduate participants were tested on emotion recognition, Theory of Mind, social perception, and attributional style as well as state paranoia, clinical measures associated with paranoia, and self-assessments of social functioning. Results: Using bivariate correlations, we examined the relationship between subclinical paranoia, social cognition, and social functioning. Self-ratings of subclinical paranoia were validated via significant correlations with clinical measures, supporting the notion that these individuals fall along the paranoia continuum. Moderate correlations were seen between paranoia ratings and AIHQ hostility bias (r = .367), aggression bias (r = .442), and blame score (r = .344), all Ps < .001. Additionally, small correlations were observed between paranoia and emotion perception (ER40; r = −.198, P = .028), Theory of Mind (TASIT; r = −.208, P = .021), and assessments of trustworthiness (P = −.182, P = .044). Paranoia was significantly correlated with social withdrawal (r = −.363, P < .001). Conclusion: This study reveals positive links between increased paranoia and social cognitive bias and demonstrates that paranoia exerts a similar effect on social cognition and social functioning across a continuum spanning from healthy to pathological. Further examination of these deficits in both clinical and subclinical populations will provide information on the mechanisms underlying paranoia.