Paranoia, persecutory delusions and attributional biases

Ryan McKay*, Robyn Langdon, Max Coltheart

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    76 Citations (Scopus)


    An influential model of persecutory delusions put forward by Bentall and colleagues hypothesizes that persecutory-deluded patients avoid the activation of negative self-beliefs by making externalising, personalising attributions for negative events. The first study reported here used a new instrument for the measurement of persecutory ideation, the Paranoid, Persecutory and Delusion-Proneness Questionnaire, to investigate whether attributional biases are associated with subclinical persecutory ideation. The second study extended this investigation by re-examining associations between attributional biases and persecutory delusions. Both studies used the Internal, Personal and Situational Attributions Questionnaire to measure attributional style. No evidence was found for a connection between attributional biases and subclinical persecutory ideation. Furthermore, there was no support for an association between persecutory delusions and an externalising bias, and only marginal support for the hypothesized relationship between persecutory delusions and a personalising bias. These results suggest that the putative link between persecutory ideation and attributional biases only manifests (if at all) when persecutory ideation is of delusional intensity, and that it is confined to a personalising bias.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)233-245
    Number of pages13
    JournalPsychiatry Research
    Issue number2-3
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2005


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