Analytic cognitive style predicts paranormal explanations of anomalous experiences but not the experiences themselves: Implications for cognitive theories of delusions

Robert Ross, Bjoern Hartig, Ryan McKay

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Background and objectives
It has been proposed that delusional beliefs are attempts to explain anomalous experiences. Why, then, do anomalous experiences induce delusions in some people but not in others? One possibility is that people with delusions have reasoning biases that result in them failing to reject implausible candidate explanations for anomalous experiences. We examine this hypothesis by studying paranormal interpretations of anomalous experiences.

We examined whether analytic cognitive style (i.e. the willingness or disposition to critically evaluate outputs from intuitive processing and engage in effortful analytic processing) predicted anomalous experiences and paranormal explanations for these experiences after controlling for demographic variables and cognitive ability.

Analytic cognitive style predicted paranormal explanations for anomalous experiences, but not the anomalous experiences themselves.

We did not study clinical delusions. Our attempts to control for cognitive ability may have been inadequate. Our sample was predominantly students.

Limited analytic cognitive style might contribute to the interpretation of anomalous experiences in terms of delusional beliefs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90–96
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Early online date17 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017

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