The effect of social exclusion on state paranoia and explicit and implicit self-esteem in a non-clinical sample

J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 2017 Dec;57:62-69. doi: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2017.04.001. Epub 2017 Apr 14.


Background and objectives: The relationship between self-esteem and paranoia may be influenced by social stress. This study aimed to replicate previous research on the impact ofsocial exclusion on paranoia and self-esteem in a non-clinical sample and to extend this work by examining the effect of exclusion on self-esteem at the 'implicit' level.

Methods: Non-clinical participants (N = 85) were randomly allocated to the Inclusion or Exclusion condition of a virtual ball-toss game ('Cyberball'). They completed self-reportmeasures of state paranoia and self-esteem, and two implicit measures of self-esteem - theImplicit Association Task (IAT) and Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP) -prior to and after exposure to Cyberball.

Results: Social exclusion increased state paranoia. This effect was moderated by distress associated with trait paranoia. Exclusion was also associated with decreased self-reported self-esteem, as well as reduced implicit self-esteem on the IAT. Changes in self-reported self-esteem were associated with state paranoia at post-Cyberball. The IRAP indicated that reductions in implicit self-esteem may be due to increases in 'Me-Negative' and 'Others-Positive' biases (rather than reductions in 'Me-Positive' bias).

Limitations: The current study involved a non-clinical sample and so findings cannot be generalized to clinical paranoia.

Conclusions: These findings are consistent with previous evidence that paranoia is associated with negative self-evaluations, whereas positive self-evaluations can persist in paranoia. They also provide support for the suggestion that investigations of self-esteem in paranoia should extend beyond global self-esteem and might benefit from a distinction between positive and negative components.

Keywords: Implicit self-esteem; Paranoia; Self-esteem; Social exclusion.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Paranoid Disorders / psychology*
  • Personality Inventory
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychological Distance*
  • Random Allocation
  • Self Concept*
  • Self Report
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult