Probabilistic reasoning in obsessive-compulsive and delusional disorders

Psychol Med. 1997 Jan;27(1):199-208. doi: 10.1017/s0033291796004175.


Background: Delusional disorder (DD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have been investigated in previous studies using probabilistic reasoning paradigms and abnormalities in each group have been reported. No study to date has compared results between these groups. This study compares patients with these disorders with those who have both phenomena.

Methods: Thirty subjects with DD, 29 with OCD and 16 with obsessive and delusional features were compared with 30 normal controls in a study of probabilistic reasoning using two different computer-based tasks involving a Bayesian paradigm.

Results: Deluded subjects showed a 'jump to conclusions' reasoning style, but on a test that added a consequence to their choices did not differ from normals. OCD subjects deviated from Bayesian and control norms to a greater degree than did DD subjects. In subjects with mixed psychopathology, the presence of both phenomena appeared to 'normalize' these probability estimates.

Conclusions: Our findings extend those of others but require cautious interpretation as to the role of probabilistic reasoning in the genesis of delusions or obsessions. Obsessionals in both the OCD and Mixed groups, showed substantial deviation from Bayesian norms, suggesting that obsessionality leads to a reasoning style that is less 'normal' than that of delusionals. Further work is required to investigate clinical correlates of these findings which provide modest support for the proposal that the combination of obsessions and delusions confers greater functional advantages than simply having delusions or obsessions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Delusions / complications
  • Delusions / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment*
  • Knowledge of Results, Psychological
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / complications
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / psychology*
  • Probability*
  • Reaction Time
  • Reference Values
  • Self-Assessment