Why do bad things happen to me? Attributional style, depressed mood, and persecutory delusions in patients with schizophrenia

Stephanie Mehl*, Martin W. Landsberg, Anna Christine Schmidt, Maurice Cabanis, Andreas Bechdolf, Jutta Herrlich, Stephanie Loos-Jankowiak, Tilo Kircher, Stephanie Kiszkenow, Stefan Klingberg, Mareike Kommescher, Steffen Moritz, Bernhard W. Muller, Gudrun Sartory, Georg Wiedemann, Andreas Wittorf, Wolfgang Wölwer, Michael Wagner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Theoretical models postulate an important role of attributional style (AS) in the formation and maintenance of persecutory delusions and other positive symptoms of schizophrenia. However, current research has gathered conflicting findings. In a cross-sectional design, patients with persistent positive symptoms of schizophrenia (n = 258) and healthy controls (n = 51) completed a revised version of the Internal, Personal and Situational Attributions Questionnaire (IPSAQ-R) and assessments of psychopathology. In comparison to controls, neither patients with schizophrenia in general nor patients with persecutory delusions (n = 142) in particular presented an externalizing and personalizing AS. Rather, both groups showed a "self-blaming" AS and attributed negative events more toward themselves. Persecutory delusions were independently predicted by a personalizing bias for negative events (beta = 0.197, P =. 001) and by depression (beta = 0.152, P =. 013), but only 5% of the variance in persecutory delusions could be explained. Cluster analysis of IPSAQ-R scores identified a "personalizing" (n = 70) and a "self-blaming" subgroup (n = 188), with the former showing slightly more pronounced persecutory delusions (P =. 021). Results indicate that patients with schizophrenia and patients with persecutory delusions both mostly blamed themselves for negative events. Nevertheless, still a subgroup of patients could be identified who presented a more pronounced personalizing bias and more severe persecutory delusions. Thus, AS in patients with schizophrenia might be less stable but more determined by individual and situational characteristics that need further elucidation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1338-1346
Number of pages9
JournalSchizophrenia Bulletin
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • attributional style
  • depression
  • negative emotions
  • persecutory delusions
  • positive symptoms
  • schizophrenia


Dive into the research topics of 'Why do bad things happen to me? Attributional style, depressed mood, and persecutory delusions in patients with schizophrenia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this