Processing of threat-related affect is delayed in delusion-prone individuals

M. J. Green*, L. M. Williams, D. J. Davidson

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    63 Citations (Scopus)


    Objectives. On the basis of previous reports of an attentional bias for threat-related emotional material in deluded schizophrenics (e.g. Bentall & Kaney, 1989), the present study examined the proposal that a similar bias would be demonstrated by delusion-prone individuals, reflected by longer response latencies for the task of processing threat-related facially displayed affects (e.g. anger, fear). Design. A non-randomized matched group design was employed to examine the performance of delusion-prone individuals in comparison with a control group. Methods. 50 psychiatrically healthy participants completed the Peters et al. Delusions Inventory (PDI) as an index of delusional ideation (Peters, Day, & Garety, 1996; Peters, Joseph, & Garety, 1999). Subjects were presented with a standard set of facial stimuli depicting happy, sad, neutral, fearful and angry emotion expressions (Mazurski & Bond, 1993). Reaction times for the task of identifying each type of affect were compared between groups of high and low scorers on the PDI. Results. Highly delusion-prone individuals displayed a significant delay in processing angry facial expressions in comparison with low scorers on the PDI. Conclusions. The increased response latency for processing angry expressions was interpreted as evidence of attentional bias for material posing a threat to the self, supporting previous cognitive data in relation to deluded patients. Threatening facial expressions may be regarded with increased significance by delusion-prone individuals, and it is possible that this bias is involved in the formation of delusional beliefs.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)157-165
    Number of pages9
    JournalBritish Journal of Clinical Psychology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2001

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