Examining the association between cognitive empathy & paranoia in a community sample
Armstrong, Jacob D.
Clark, Charles B.
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Armstrong, J. D., & Clark, C. B. (2021). Examining the association between cognitive empathy & paranoia in a community sample. North American Journal of Psychology, 23(3), 415-436.
Individuals demonstrating higher levels of paranoid thinking also tend to possess lower levels of cognitive empathy. However, the literature remains mixed with many authors finding no relationship or only finding a relationship in extreme cases. An untested explanation for this discrepancy is that cognitive empathy is not a unitary construct and that different subcomponents of the construct have a different relationship with paranoia. This study examined the feasibility of that explanation by assessing paranoia in a community sample (N = 145) and then administering two measures of cognitive empathy: one assessing a perceptual component (i.e., Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test; RMET), and another measuring a more complex motivational component (i.e., the Causal Attribution Task; CAT). The participants also completed a demographic questionnaire and a measure of the Big-Five personality traits. Hierarchical linear regression models controlling for relevant covariates predicting paranoia demonstrated significant findings for the perceptual component, but not the motivational component. These findings suggest that cognitive empathy is a multifaceted construct and that different components of this construct likely have different relationships with paranoia. Though this study did not use a clinical population, our findings in conjunction with others suggest that therapies designed to treat paranoia may benefit from a module dedicated to remediating deficits in perceptual cognitive empathy.
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