The effects of loss of hearing and evaluative personality feedback on incidence of paranoid reactions
Casanova, Gisele M.
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Paranoid disorders have been attributed to both stressful experiences and reality distortions encouraged by psychological isolation. Hearing impairment, which constitutes isolation in terms of information input, has led to paranoid reactions in subjects studied naturalistically and experimentally. Threats to self-esteem from critical feedback have produced anxiety in experimental subjects. The present study compared the effects of impaired vs. normal hearing and critical vs. favorable feedback on changes in paranoid reactions. It was predicted that subjects experiencing hearing impairment would increase in their paranoid reactions from pre- to posttest. Subjects receiving critical feedback (i.e., adjustment weaknesses) were also expected to increase in their paranoid reactions from pre- to posttest. The investigation was designed to determine whether the joint effects of hearing and feedback are additive or multiplicative. Prior to the experimental manipulations, 80 female subjects completed several measures (anxiety, projection, and paranoid adjective checklist) in order to assess their pre-experimental paranoid reactions. A self-esteem scale also was used as a possible covariate. In the second session, subjects were asked to take several personality tests and were presented with one of four pre-recorded, simulated personality interpretations. The content of the taped interpretations consisted of either weaknesses or strengths in general and social adjustment, and these were either completely intelligible (normal hearing) or partially unintelligible (impaired hearing). Subjects' reactions to their respective experimental conditions were assessed after the interpretation ended and comparisons of the subjects' pre- and post-experimental paranoid reactions were made. Since subjects in the four experimental conditions did not differ in self-esteem, the covariate was not used in subsequent analyses. Results of the investigation indicated that subjects in the hearing and feedback conditions differed significantly in paranoid reactions, with those in the hearing impaired condition and adjustment weaknesses condition exibiting the greatest increases in paranoid reactions. Hearing and feedback were found to combine in an additive fashion. The combination of impaired hearing and adjustment weaknesses feedback produced the greatest increases in paranoid reactions, and the combination of normal hearing and adjustment strengths feedback produced the greatest decreases in paranoid reactions.