Subthreshold thoughts disorder: a continuum with paranoid delusions? The role of attributional heuristic biases in maintaining self-esteem

I disturbi di pensiero sottosoglia: un continuum con il delirio paranoideo? Il possibile ruolo dei bias euristici attributivi nel mantenimento dell’autostima

P.L. Bandinelli, A. Zangrilli, G. Ducci, M.P. Penna

1 Dipartimento di Salute Mentale ASL Roma “E”, SPDC Ospedale “S. Filippo Neri”, Roma; 2 Dipartimento di Scienze Umane, Università LUMSA, Roma; 3 Facoltà di Scienze della Formazione, Università di Cagliari


Human reasoning originates both as in a propositional way following the inferential laws of formal logic, as analogically according to Johnson-Laird Theory of Mental Models (TMM), with the construction of the premises through a mental model (in the form of representation of a specific problem), and subsequent manipulations until the review of the premises through the selection and reduction (contextual restrictors) of these models in comparison with evidence to the contrary (counterarguments). The aim of the present paper is to better understand if delusional thought (mainly of paranoid type) is at the end of the spectrum of heuristic thinking biases (in particular of social and attributional biases), rather than regard it as a discontinuity from the form of thought shared among individuals.

Cochrane analysis of the literature with following key words: euristic biases, paranoid delusions, self-esteem, moral disengagement.

Literature data are sufficiently unique in considering that among the factors that interfere with the process of restriction, favoring the onset of delusional thinking, as well as some mental states (anger, mood swings, emotional lability, fear, anxiety), might be considered heuristic biases that are intended to preserve the self-esteem (either an overt or deep).

The interest of our hypothesis is that what we consider to be clinically more severe (delusions) may in fact represent only the tip of the iceberg in a series of sub-threshold thinking disorders, which, just because it is very common and socially accepted, represent a more serious kind of human miscommunication, also justifying dangerous behaviour derived from moral disengagement. A unitary hypothesis that links sub-threshold thoughts disorder to delusions is that it serves to preserve our self-esteem, at least from a psychological point of view.

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