The Bias Toward Intentionality in Schizophrenia: Automaticity, Context, and Relationships to Symptoms and Functioning

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Previous research on attributions in schizophrenia has focused on whether individuals make hostile, intentional attributions for ambiguous negative events. It is unclear, however, whether individuals with schizophrenia differ from controls in their general judgments of intentionality judgments in nonconflict and emotionally neutral situations. Research in social psychology suggests that nonclinical individuals present with an automatic bias to see intentionality and that this bias is regulated by the operation of controlled processes. The present study examined whether this general intentionality bias distinguishes individuals with schizophrenia (n = 213) from nonpatient controls (n = 151). Indeed, individuals with schizophrenia were more likely to attribute intentional motives to others’ actions relative to controls. This intentionality bias was related to hostility, role functioning, and independent living skills. These findings may provide one domain to examine in future approaches to social cognition in schizophrenia.

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