Stress and cognitive biases in schizotypy: A two-site study of bias against disconfirmatory evidence and jumping to conclusions
The dysfunctional cognitive and reasoning biases which underpin psychotic symptoms are likely to present prior to the onset of a diagnosable disorder and should therefore be detectable along the psychosis continuum in individuals with schizotypal traits. Two reasoning biases, Bias Against Disconfirmatory Evidence (BADE) and Jumping to Conclusions (JTC), describe how information is selected and weighed under conditions of uncertainty during decision making. It is likely that states such as elevated stress exacerbates JTC and BADE in individuals with high schizotypal traits vulnerable to displaying these information gathering styles. Therefore, we evaluated whether stress and schizotypy interacted to predict these reasoning biases using separate samples from the US (JTC) and England (BADE). Generally speaking, schizotypal traits and stress were not independently associated with dysfunctional reasoning biases. However, across both studies, the interaction between schizotypy traits and stress significantly predicted reasoning biases such that increased stress was associated with increased reasoning biases, but only for individuals low in schizotypal traits. These patterns were observed for positive schizotypal traits (in both samples), for negative traits (in the England sample only), but not for disorganization traits. For both samples, our findings suggest that the presence of states such as stress is associated with, though not necessarily dysfunctional, reasoning biases in individuals with low schizotypy. These reasoning biases seemed, in some ways, relatively immutable to stress in individuals endorsing high levels of positive schizotypal traits.