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Psychiatry Res. 2012 May 15;197(1-2):119-22. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2011.12.031. Epub 2012 Mar 9.

Gut feelings, deliberative thought, and paranoid ideation: a study of experiential and rational reasoning.

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Department of Psychiatry, Oxford University, UK.


Rapid intuitive hunches or gut feelings may be a compelling source of evidence for paranoid ideas. Conversely, a failure to apply effortful analytic thinking may contribute to the persistence of such thoughts. Our main aim was to examine for the first time the associations of persecutory thinking with experiential and rational thinking styles. Five hundred individuals recruited from the general population completed self-report assessments of current persecutory ideation, general reasoning styles and personality traits. Persecutory ideation was independently associated with greater use of experiential reasoning and less use of rational reasoning. The correlations were small. Persecutory ideation was also positively associated with neuroticism and negatively correlated with extraversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness. There was no evidence of an interaction between neuroticism and experiential reasoning in the prediction of paranoia, but high experiential reasoning in the context of low rational reasoning was particularly associated with persecutory ideation. Overall, the study provides rare evidence of self-reported general reasoning styles being associated with delusional ideation. Perceived reliance on intuition is associated with paranoid thinking, while perceived reliance on deliberation is associated with fewer such thoughts. The dual process theory of reasoning may provide a framework to contribute to the understanding of paranoid thinking.

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