The intentionality bias in schizotypy: a social matter

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Cognitive Neuropsychiatry


Introduction: We aimed to investigate the association between schizotypy and intentionality bias, the tendency to interpret ambiguous actions as being intentional, for social and non-social actions separately. This bias contributes to interpersonal difficulties, and has been associated with psychotic symptoms, such as delusions. However, results have been inconsistent for an association between putative psychosis proneness, schizotypy, and intentionality bias. Further, the multidimensional nature of schizotypy has not been considered. Agreeableness was measured to examine the specificity of the relationship, and inhibition to examine its potential role as a mediator. Methods: Two online studies are reported (n = 280 and n = 163) in which participants made intentionality judgements about ambiguous actions described in sentences. They also completed questionnaire measures of schizotypy and agreeableness, and inhibitory efficiency (a sentence completion task). Results: Schizotypy was associated with perceiving ambiguous actions as intentional, particularly in social contexts, after controlling for agreeableness. The association with social intentionality was stronger for schizotypy subscales capturing paranoia and unusual beliefs. Inhibitory efficiency as not a significant predictor of intentionality bias. Conclusion: These finding suggest intentionality biases for social and non-social events are distinguishable. In relation to schizotypy, social situations appear to generate perceptions of intentionality. Intentionality bias represents a phenotypic cognitive risk for psychosis which should be further investigated.

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