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01-10-2012 | Original Article | Uitgave 5/2012

Cognitive Therapy and Research 5/2012

Depressive Primes Stimulate Initial Avoidance of Angry Faces: An Eye-Tracking Study of Paranoid Ideation

Cognitive Therapy and Research > Uitgave 5/2012
María Provencio, Carmelo Vázquez, Carmen Valiente, Gonzalo Hervas


Cognitive models of paranoia posit the existence of specific information-processing biases, such as attentional biases, that are related to persecutory beliefs. The nature of these biases remains unclear. Some models propose depression to be at the core of paranoid ideation, while other models propose anxiety. In this study we tested whether attentional biases towards angry or neutral faces were facilitated by 300-ms presentation of an emotional prime word (positive, depressive, paranoid, neutral) in normal participants high in paranoid beliefs (HPB, N = 52) or low in paranoid beliefs (LPB, N = 43). Analyses of first fixation patterns in visual scanpaths revealed that paranoid words made all participants avoid angry faces, though this tendency reached significance only in the LPB group. In contrast, depressive words triggered significant avoidance of angry faces in the HPB group. These findings suggest that activation of depressive cognitive schemas facilitates attentional biases specifically in participants with subclinical paranoia, which would favor the depression-based model of paranoia. We discuss the importance of priming methodologies and visual scan measures for revealing specific cognitive processes in psychopathology and testing competing etiological models of paranoia.

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