The profile of unusual beliefs associated with metacognitive thinking and attributional styles

Publication Name

PsyCh Journal


Cognitive interpretations of daily events may differ in people from the general population who hold unusual beliefs. It is also important to understand whether different belief profiles exist to appreciate which patterns of beliefs are less psychologically healthy. Cluster analysis was used to form unusual belief profiles in a general population sample (n = 578; Mage = 22 years, SD = 6.98; 80% female) across paranoid, paranormal, and magical ideation beliefs, and we assessed whether they differed in attribution style and metacognitive beliefs about worry. Four clusters were formed: low on all measures (low all); high on all measures (high all); comparably higher on paranormal beliefs (paranormal group); and comparably higher on paranoid beliefs (paranoid group). For total Metacognitions Questionnaire-30, the high all and high paranoid clusters did not differ, and both clusters scored higher than the high paranormal group, who all scored higher than the low all cluster. For attributional styles (Attributional Styles Questionnaire), lower scores on internal positive attribution were found for the high all and high paranoid clusters compared to the low all and high paranormal clusters. The high paranormal cluster had higher scores than the high paranoid cluster on self-serving bias. Differences in attributional style appeared to be driven by mental health diagnosis. Our results suggest different profiles of unusual beliefs are detectable in the general population that differ in their metacognitive beliefs and perceived causation of events in their environment. Future studies investigating delusional proneness need to consider multiple unusual beliefs as well as assessing mood state and distress.

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