Computational mechanisms underlying illusion of control in delusional individuals

Soojung Na, Sylvia Blackmore, Dongil Chung, Madeline O'Brien, Sarah M. Banker, Matthew Heflin, Vincenzo G. Fiore, Xiaosi Gu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Humans navigate complex situations that require the accurate estimation of the controllability of the environment. Aberrant controllability computation might lead to maladaptive behaviors and poor mental health outcomes. Illusion of control, which refers to a heightened sense of control while the environment is uncontrollable, is one such manifestation and has been conceptually associated with delusional ideation. Nevertheless, this association has not yet been formally characterized in a computational framework. To address this, we used a computational psychiatry approach to quantify illusion of control in human participants with high (n = 125) or low (n = 126) trait delusion. Participants played a two-party exchange game in which their choices either did (“Controllable condition”) or did not (“Uncontrollable condition”) influence the future monetary offers made by simulated partners. We found that the two groups behaved similarly in model-agnostic measures (i.e., offer size, rejection rate). However, computational modeling revealed that compared to the low trait delusion group, the high delusion group overestimated their influence (“expected influence” parameter) over the offers made by their partners under the Uncontrollable condition. Highly delusional individuals also reported a stronger sense of control than those with low trait delusion in the Uncontrollable condition. Furthermore, the expected influence parameter and self-reported beliefs about controllability were significantly correlated in the Controllable condition in individuals with low trait delusion, whereas this relationship was diminished in those with high trait delusion. Collectively, these findings demonstrate that delusional ideation is associated with aberrant computation of and belief about environmental controllability, as well as a belief-behavior disconnect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-58
Number of pages9
JournalSchizophrenia Research
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • Beliefs
  • Computational psychiatry
  • Delusion
  • Illusion of control
  • Schizophrenia
  • Social controllability


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