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J Nerv Ment Dis. 2005 May;193(5):309-15.

The psychology of persecutory ideation II: a virtual reality experimental study.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, United Kingdom.


A cognitive model of persecutory delusions is used to predict the occurrence of nonclinical paranoid thoughts in a virtual reality environment. Scorers across the range of paranoia entered a virtual reality scene populated by five computer characters programmed to behave neutrally (N = 30). Many appraisals of the computer characters were positive or neutral. However, there were also persecutory thoughts about the characters. Providing evidence of the validity of the experimental method, persecutory ideation was predicted by higher trait paranoia and a greater sense of presence in the environment. The psychological variables from the cognitive model that predicted persecutory ideation were anxiety, timidity, and hallucinatory predisposition. Further, hallucinatory predisposition distinguished the prediction of paranoid thoughts from social anxiety in virtual reality. It is concluded that nonclinical paranoid thoughts are most closely associated with emotional disturbances and anomalous experiences. Extreme reasoning bias may particularly contribute to the development of clinical phenomena.

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