Self-Confidence and Paranoia: An Experimental Study Using an Immersive Virtual Reality Social Situation.

S Atherton, A Antley, N Evans, E Cernis, R Lister, G Dunn, M Slater, D Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Paranoia may build directly upon negative thoughts about the self. There have been few direct experimental tests of this hypothesis. Aims: The aim of the study was to test the immediate effects of manipulating self-esteem in individuals vulnerable to paranoia. Method: A two condition cross-over experimental test was conducted. The participants were 26 males reporting paranoid ideation in the past month. Each participant experienced a neutral immersive virtual reality (VR) social environment twice. Before VR participants received a low self-confidence manipulation or a high self-confidence manipulation. The order of manipulation type was randomized. Paranoia about the VR avatars was assessed. Results: The low self-confidence manipulation, relative to the high self-confidence manipulation, led to significantly more negative social comparison in virtual reality and higher levels of paranoia. Conclusions: Level of self-confidence affects the occurrence of paranoia in vulnerable individuals. The clinical implication is that interventions designed to improve self-confidence may reduce persecutory ideation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016


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