Pathways to paranoia: Analytic thinking and belief flexibility

Michael V. Bronstein, Jonas Everaert, Ariana Castro, Jutta Joormann, Tyrone D. Cannon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Delusions have been repeatedly linked to reduced engagement in analytic (i.e., conscious and effortful) reasoning. However, the mechanisms underlying this relationship remain unclear. One hypothesis is that less analytic reasoning might maintain persecutory delusions by reducing belief flexibility. An important aspect of belief flexibility is the ability to revise beliefs in response to disconfirmatory evidence. The present study recruited 231 participants from the general population that represented a wide range of paranoid ideation. Participants completed tasks in which they encountered a series of ambiguous scenarios with initially-appealing explanations that were later disconfirmed by statements supporting alternative interpretations. Three types of scenarios were employed: two presented participants with emotionally valenced explanations (i.e., negative or positive) and one presented participants with emotionally neutral explanations. In each type of reasoning scenario, impaired belief revision ability was found to partially mediate the relationship between reduced engagement in analytic reasoning and persecutory ideation. These results are consistent with the notion that reduced engagement in analytic reasoning may help maintain paranoid delusions by interfering with the ability to revise beliefs in the presence of disconfirmatory information.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)18-24
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

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