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Cogn Neuropsychiatry. 2013;18(6):531-48. doi: 10.1080/13546805.2013.766595. Epub 2013 Feb 27.

Social cognition and social functioning in nonclinical paranoia.

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a Department of Psychology , University of Texas at Tyler , Tyler , TX , USA.



Persons with nonclinical paranoia show many of the same biases as those with clinical paranoia, suggesting that paranoia exists on a continuum. However, little is known about the various social cognitive processes found in paranoia and how these relate to social functioning and social behaviours in general. This study will examine performance on emotion perception and attributional style measures and their relationship to social functioning, social problem solving, and social skill. A key element in this study will be the incorporation of ambiguity in the perception of emotional expressions and the assignment of attributional blame, which appears to be an important, yet neglected, construct in paranoia.


Twenty-six persons with high levels of nonclinical paranoia and 31 persons with low levels of paranoia completed measures of emotion perception, attributional style, social functioning, and social problem solving. Salient and subtle emotional expressions were used to examine how ambiguity impacts emotion perception in paranoia.


The group high in nonclinical paranoia showed reduced accuracy for subtle negative emotional expressions and showed more perceived hostility and blame for ambiguous social situations as compared to the group low in nonclinical paranoia. Also, the high nonclinical paranoia group reported less social engagement, fewer social contacts, and more problems in social perception and social skill than the group low in nonclinical paranoia.


Social cognitive and social functioning biases are found in persons with high levels of nonclinical paranoia. Possible mechanisms of these biases and relevance for treatment approaches are discussed.

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