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Br J Clin Psychol. 1999 Mar;38 ( Pt 1):83-96.

Delusional ideation in religious and psychotic populations.

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  • 1Sub-department of Clinical Health Psychology, University College London, UK.



Previous research into schizotypy has shown that certain groups of people have similar experiences to the positive symptoms of schizophrenia but remain functioning members of society, such as those with profound religious experiences (Jackson & Fulford, 1997).


The focus of the present study was to explore the incidence of delusional ideation in New Religious Movements (NRMs). Hare Krishnas and Druids were compared to two control groups (non-religious and Christian), and to deluded, psychotic in-patients on two delusions measures.


As predicted, individuals from the NRMs scored significantly higher than the control groups on all the delusional measures apart from levels of distress. They did not show as much florid symptomatology as the psychotic patients, but could not be differentiated from the deluded group on the number of delusional items endorsed on the Peters et al. Delusions Inventory (PDI; Peters, Day & Garety, 1996), or on levels of conviction. However, they were significantly less distressed and preoccupied by their experiences. No differences were found between the two control groups on any of the delusional measures, suggesting that religious beliefs per se do not account for the NRMs members' scores.


These findings provide further support for, first, the notion of a continuum between normality and psychosis and, second, for the necessity to consider the multidimensionality of delusional beliefs.

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