Ever-present threats from information technology: The cyber-paranoia and fear scale

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Abstract

Delusions involving technology, and specifically the internet, are increasingly common, and fear-reality statistics suggest computer-related fears are very widespread. These fears form a continuum from the widely understandable and realistic to the unrealistic, and frankly paranoid. The present study investigated the validity of this construct in a non-clinical population by constructing a novel self-report measure. The new Cyber-Paranoia and Fear Scale aims to measure the perception of information technology-related threats originating from or enabled by computers, smartphones, social networks, and digital surveillance. Psychometric properties of the new Cyber-Paranoia and Fear Scale are reported alongside an established measure of suspiciousness and paranoia in 181 participants including a sub-group of fifty information technology professionals. Exploratory factor analysis suggested the presence of two, related, dimensions that we term cyber-paranoia and cyber-fear. Both sub-scales were internally consistent and produced a normal distribution of scores. The relationships of the sub-scales with age, gender, trait paranoia, digital literacy, and digital inclusion are supportive of construct validity. The distinctiveness of 'cyber-paranoia' from general trait paranoia appears to mirror the clinical distinctiveness of 'internet' and other technology-fuelled delusions. Knowledge provision to increase technological proficiency and awareness may bring about a reduction in cyber-paranoia.

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Mason, O. J., Stevenson, C., & Freedman, F. (2014). Ever-present threats from information technology: The cyber-paranoia and fear scale. Frontiers in Psychology, 5(NOV). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01298

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