Objective. The substantial literature examining social reasoning in people with delusions has, to date, neglected the commonest form of decision making in daily life. We address this imbalance by reporting here the findings of the first study to explore heuristic reasoning in people with persecutory delusions.
Method. People with active or remitted paranoid delusions, depressed and healthy adults performed two novel heuristic reasoning tasks that varied in emotional valence.
Results. The findings indicated that people with persecutory delusions displayed biases during heuristic reasoning that were most obvious when reasoning about threatening and positive material. Clear similarities existed between the currently paranoid group and the depressed group in terms of their reasoning about the likelihood of events happening to them, with both groups tending to believe that pleasant things would not happen to them. However, only the currently paranoid group showed an increased tendency to view other people as threatening.
Conclusion. This study has initiated the exploration of heuristic reasoning in paranoia and depression. The findings have therapeutic utility and future work could focus on the differentiation of paranoia and depression at a cognitive level.