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Title: The role of positive schizotypy and traumatic life events in the emotional content of experimentally induced false perceptions
Author: Vickers, Monique
ISNI:       0000 0004 5921 9955
Awarding Body: University of Roehampton
Current Institution: University of Roehampton
Date of Award: 2015
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Background: Positive schizotypy describes unusual perceptual experiences (such as hallucinations) and beliefs (such a delusional-like thinking) akin to those observed in schizophrenia. Previous evidence has suggested that positive schizotypy can predict false perceptual experiences in non-clinical participants during experimental tasks involving visual detection of fast moving words. However, little is known about the role of emotion as well as the emotional content of such laboratory-generated, false perceptual experiences. Furthermore, despite previous evidence on an association between schizotypy and traumatic life events, it remains unclear whether such traumatic life events would also have an impact on the number and content of laboratory-generated false perceptions. Aims: The aims were to replicate previous findings that positive schizotypy is a predictor of false perceptions (perceptual bias) in a word recognition task and to extend this in a number of novel ways: investigate false perceptions as a function of schizotypy under different conditions through experimentally manipulating the emotional content of target words; examine the emotional content of such false perceptual experiences; and examine the role of schizotypy and traumatic life events in the amount and the content of false perceptions, while controlling for subclinical traits anxiety and depression. Method: In Study I, a non-clinical sample (N = 121) completed standard psychological questionnaires and undertook a word detection task where a series of target words (of four emotional conditions: positive, neutral, threat-related, or trauma-related) or non-words were briefly displayed on a computer screen. The participants identified any target words they saw. Some reported false perceptions, i.e. words that were not among the target words. In Study II, professional therapists (N = 12) and non-therapists (N = 12) rated the emotional content of the false perceptions according to standard scales for emotional intensity and valence. Results: Positive schizotypy was a predictor of the number of false perceptions in line with previous findings. Participants reported fewer correct responses in the threat-related and trauma-related target word conditions than in the neutral and positive conditions. Furthermore, associations were found between positive schizotypy and emotional content (Emotional Intensity, Activity and Potency) of false perceptions as well as between positive schizotypy, early-age trauma and depression. Conclusions: These findings suggest that individuals with positive schizotypy are more likely to experience false perceptions and that their false perceptions have a higher emotional content. The results also confirm previous findings that negative emotion may interfere with perceptual and/or cognitive processes, and that early-age trauma may be a risk factor for schizotypy.
Supervisor: Tsakanikos, Elias ; Georgiou, George Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available