Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Volume 77 Issue 4 (December 2004), Pages 413-547

Delusional discourse: An investigation comparing the spontaneous causal attributions of paranoid and non‐paranoid individuals (pages 525-540)

Research into the nature of attributional reasoning in paranoia has for the most part been restricted to questionnaire‐based approaches. This fails to address the issue of whether a distinctive attributional style underpins the everyday talk of paranoid individuals. This study aimed to investigate whether attributional models of paranoid delusions applied to spontaneous attributions generated in the discourse of 12 paranoid and 12 non‐paranoid speakers. Causal attributions for negative and positive life experiences were extracted from interview transcripts and rated using the Content Analysis of Verbatim Explanations (CAVE) technique. It was found that, as a proportion, paranoids made more attributions for negative events that were of an external‐personal, stable and global nature (as attributional models would predict). They also made significantly more external‐personal attributions for negative events and, in one of two datasets, showed a more external mean CAVE rating for negative events than the non‐paranoid controls. This paper highlights important issues underlying the extraction of attributions from paranoid talk, and discusses the implications for attributional models of paranoia and future discourse‐based research in this area.

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