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Fear of others intending harm is central in paranoia but it is unclear to what extent social context alters paranoid attributions, and how this interacts with pre-existing paranoia. We examined social interactions via game theory paradigms across social rank (Experiment 1) and political group affiliation (Experiment 2) as a function of pre-existing paranoia using two pre-registered Dictator Games (N=2,030) for real money. Interacting with someone from a higher social rank or a political out-group led to an increase in paranoid attributions of harmful intent for ambiguous actions. Pre-existing paranoia predicted a general increase in harmful intent attribution but there was no interaction with social situation: highly paranoid people showed the same magnitude of increase to non-paranoid people, although from a higher baseline. We conclude that social context affects paranoid attributions but ongoing paranoia represents a lowered threshold for detecting social threat rather than an impaired reactivity to it.
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