Differences in social status and politics encourage paranoid thinking

paranoid
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Paranoia is the tendency to assume other people are trying to harm you when their actual motivations are unclear, and this tendency is increased when interacting with someone of a higher social status or opposing political beliefs, according to the study published today in Royal Society Open Science.

“Being alert to social danger is key to our survival, but our results suggest social difference alone encourages us to think that the other person wants to harm us,” said the study’s senior author, Professor Nichola Raihani (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences).

“Intense paranoia is also a symptom of mental ill health, and is more common among people who perceive themselves to have low social rank. We believe our findings could shed light on why paranoia is more common in those who are struggling on the social ladder and excluded by society,” she added.

For the study, 2,030 people participated in an online experiment where they were paired with another person and given a sum of money. Ahead of the experiment, all participants had…

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